National SCC 2012 - report and reflections

A full report on how the event unfolded, the Convention's outcomes, proposed Constitutional changes and the Convention's processes are fully detailed in the 2012 communiqué.

Take a look at the Convention's program to see how the event was planned.

Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins presents certificates to two of the delegates. Image courtesy of NSCC (http://www.civicsandcitizenship.edu.au/cce/national_schools_constitutional_convention,8980.html)
Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins presents certificates to two of the delegates. Image courtesy of NSCC (http://www.civicsandcitizenship.edu.au/cce/national_schools_constitutional_convention,8980.html)

NSCC 2012: feedback

This report is courtesy of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

The program

This year the National Schools Constitutional Convention (NSCC) addressed the issue of federalism with participating students considering whether health and water should become the responsibility of the federal government. The NSCC has addressed aspects of federalism several times before, but it is a really important aspect of our democracy for students to come to grips with. And, of course, each year there is a different cohort of students participating so using topics a second time isn’t an issue.

The program commenced with a general address on federalism before moving on to consider where responsibility for the two specific matters should reside. The communiqué prepared with the students provides more detailed information about the structure of the program and the students’ thoughts and deliberations on the issues.

This year, there was a small panel of experts discuss the issues around federalism. Each person brought their own professional and personal perspectives to the discussion. After they had all provided a short address, they responded to questions from facilitator Emeritus Professor John Warhurst AO, followed by questions from the student delegates. It was a very successful approach and allowed a wide range of issues to be thoughtfully considered.

The events

There was the usual array of visits, events and receptions, including:
  • attending question time at Parliament House and visiting the National Archives to see the original constitutional documents;
  • the welcome reception at Parliament House (hosted by the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for School Education) where many of the students were able to meet with their local member or a Senator from their state or territory;
  • the official opening with Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins, Parliamentary Secretary for School Education;
  • the official dinner at the High Court where students were welcomed by Senior Executive Deputy Registrar, Mr Ben Wickham, and Mr Nicholas Tebbey, ACT Young Lawyer of the Year in 2009 presented the key address; and
  • presenting the communiqué to Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, Deputy President of the Senate in the House of Representatives Chamber of Old Parliament House.

The delegates

Right from the beginning of the events, it was clear that there was an interested and committed group of student delegates. While waiting for Minister Garrett to arrive at the welcome reception, the students were seated and chatting amongst themselves. Every time a person arrived in the room or moved to near the front, a hush descended until they realised that this wasn’t the Minister yet!

As mentioned last year, Victoria has recently been sending two media delegates to the Convention. This year, Kirsty and Oliver were introduced to the delegates on day 1 and interviewed other students throughout the Convention. Please visit their blog at http://nationalschoolsconvention.global2.vic.edu.au/.
It is always interesting to hear of instances where former delegates have become more actively involved in political life, so it is pleasing to hear of the following message from a Member of Parliament’s research officer. He said:
  • "As a side note, I am actually a “graduate” of the NSCC. It was a fantastic experience for me, with the knowledge gained coming in handy for this job! Just yesterday I was preparing briefings on big Constitutional issues related to the Judiciary and upcoming legislation. I see the topic for this year is quite timely given the debate about GST receipts and the mining tax and I am sure the students will have a fantastic time."

And this year’s delegates will have found the experience just as stimulating and thought provoking. Maybe in a few years time these students will be working in politics or other aspects of our democratic processes. Here are comments gleaned from the student reflections:

  • "I feel that if a Constitutional referendum was to occur in the future I now have an understanding of what that proposed change actually means and the effect it may have and this may alter my response in future."

  • "I certainly left the Convention with not only a far greater understanding of these issues by the inspiration to continue the discussion in my own community."
  • "[The Convention] has certainly settled for me what I want to do when I leave school (I really want to study law), and as such, this event has been monumental in influencing my future development."

  • "[The Convention] in Canberra has been an invaluable experience that I will treasure forever."
  • "What I found most interesting ... was meeting other delegates. It is rare to be able to discuss the Constitution with people from all over Australia and to discuss differences in schooling, weather, government, laws and other activities across the states."

Previous National Conventions

NSC Conventions have been running for some years, which are developed in consultation with leading constitutional experts. Communiques from previous years are available online through the National Schools Constitutional Convention website: