2011 State Junior School Council Congress


The inaugural Victoria Junior School Council Congress was held at Parliament House, Melbourne, on Monday 14 November 2011.
Approximately 100 delegates from 27 Victorian primary schools filled the Legislative Assembly to discuss the topic ‘Improving our neighbourhoods – urban planning today and beyond’. Delegates had conducted research in their schools prior to the event and this was used to form opening statements and motions.

Mr Richard Bolt, Secretary for Education, officially opened the Congress on behalf of the Minister for Education, The Hon Martin Dixon, MP. Ms Lucinda Hartley, CEO of CoDesign (an urban design studio), provided an inspirational keynote speech. Both speakers reminded the delegates that they have the power to change their schools and communities. Lucinda outlined her urban design project work in disadvantaged communities in Australia and the Asia Pacific including master plans, housing projects, schools and public spaces. More recently, Luncinda was featured in an interesting article in The Age: "Designers don't always know what's best".
The Minister for Education, The Hon Martin Dixon, spent time with students and teachers during the discussion group session. The Congress was officially closed by the Opposition Minister for Education, The Hon Rob Hulls.
Evaluations indicate that the event showcased the citizenship skills of younger Victorians with delegates debating the big issues of urban planning, environmental sustainability, transport and youth voice . When asked what was the best part of Congress the number one response was ‘being able to speak and be heard’.

The event was also featured in issue 192 (December 2011) copy of Connect managzine.

Evaluation of the event

Students and teachers were asked to respond to the following questions as part of an evaluation

What was the best part of the conference for you?

1. "Being able to speak and be heard", "getting to have a say", "getting to speak", "when I stood up and spoke", "that people got to speak and say their opinions", "the motions and public speaking", "Just to express my opinions was a pleasure expressing my ideas and my community and knowing something will actually happen", "talking about things we can make better", "getting my opinion out", "being able to share an opinion that will be passed on to the government", "the friendly way I could express the things that need improving in my suburb", and "especially when we were in the chamber discussing different views of or opinions as equals". (22)
2. "The Soap Box". (8)
3. "Debating". (7)
4. "Being in the parliament", "to see what it was like to in a room where all the laws were made", "speaking in the big room /the formal parliamentary part of the congress", "I loved having the formal part of congress", and "congress parliamentary part". (7)
5. "The voting". (6)
6. "Presenting the motions and reflecting on them", and "I loved when we did our motions". (5)
7. "Everything". (4)
8. "Listening to speeches and to the different motions", "the speech from the VIC SRC", and "listening to all guest speakers and their insight of urban planning". (4)
9. "Workshopping motions". (3)
10. "Seeing actual politicians", "trying out what real politicians do", and "seeing the Minister for Education". (3)
11. "How everyone tried and did their best".
12. "Standing up for my school and community".
13. "When I made my opening statement it was an amazing experience".
14. "Speaking and introducing EUPS food".

What suggestions do you have to improve the Congress?

1. "Nothing", "none everything was such a good experience", "it’s great the way", "nothing it so fun it is", and "make it even more awesome". (25)
2. "Having more time", "let everyone have a voice", "allow time for more motions", "fit in more motions so everyone can be heard", "more time to discuss the motions", "make sure that everyone speaks", "there should be more people talking", "let all students have a chance at talking", "perhaps make sure everyone says something", "longer so we can get through 90% of the motions", "put more time for peoples speeches", "more students should have a chance to talk", "more time for questions", "more students opinions", and "let more people speak". (25)
3. "More workshops please", and "more workshops that go for longer". (4)
4. "More warm up games", and "more games". (3)
5. "To have a student as speaker". (2)
6. "More activities that include urban planning today and beyond", and "activities". (2)
7. "More of soap box".
8. "More schools should come and we should have it more regularly".
9. "Mix schools around to make friends".
10. "If it didn’t take so long".
11. "Voting".
12. "Cheese".

Would you recommend this to other students in your school?

1. "Yes, because it was fun / great / awesome / a great experience / enjoyable / cool / good / amazing", "they’d like it", and "very interesting because I enjoyed it and would like to do it again but also it would be a great experience for other people to". (26)
2. "Yes, because it is a learning experience / educational / good education", "I learnt so much", and "it’s a great education for kids to get their ideas out there". (12)
3. "Yes, because it is a great opportunity to express your opinion", "it is a good opportunity to express your feelings about the things need improving in my community", "because I believe their voices should get heard too", "be able to say their opinion", "great experience for students to have their say and share opinions", "it is a great opportunity to represent your school and opinions", amd "it is inspiring and representing your school". (10)
4. "Yes, because it’s a great opportunity / important", "great opportunity to express feelings and to listen to other students opinions", and "it can inspire others as it inspired myself". (6)
5. "Yes, because it builds your confidence / leadership skills", and "it helps students more con-fident in talking in public". (6)
6. "Yes, because they can understand how parliament works", "I fully enjoyed learning about what happens in parliament", "it is such a great opportunity to learn about democracy and parliament stuff", "I loved it", "because it gave you the experience of what some state parliamentarians see", and "shows other people how to be a Politicians". (5)
7. "Yes, because it was very helpful to know about other schools community", and "they should know what’s going to be improved in the future". (2)
8. "Depends on what sort of person they are".
9. "The people are nice".
10. "Don’t know".