A trip to Canberra for 19-year-old Sharlene Sturk to debate whether Australia should become a republic provided a wealth of exciting experiences, including a meeting with the Governor General, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in the country.
Last month (after working really hard putting applications in and getting accepted) I was given the opportunity to go to Canberra to represent my area of Gippsland, in the state of Victoria.
Along with 140 other delegates who were selected from all over Australia, I was there to debate whether Australia should become a republic.
I found myself discussing many things of interest with my local member of parliament, who was very busy but kind enough to come back later and spend a significant amount of time with me. We plan to have a follow-up discussion at my school.
I was the only Victorian delegate there for the majority of the first day because the plane carrying the other 26 delegates unfortunately was delayed. This meant that it was my job to meet all of the Victorian Members of Parliament on behalf of the Victorian delegates.
I was the photographers’ girl for Victoria, posing with almost every parliamentarian. I never thought that such an opportunity would ever present itself so I was extremely nervous and, by the end of the first day, was as worn out as I could possibly be.
However I was proud that I was able to do everyone who knows me proud.
Day two began at 7am for breakfast. Then we were off to the Old Parliament House, where all the delegates were welcomed and the convention given an official opening by Peter Garrett, the Education Minister. We were then given arguments for and against Australia becoming a republic and we later got into working groups to discuss the pros and cons.
During lunch we happened to witness a protest against a planned carbon tax. I was amazed as I had never seen a protest ever before. We later were told about the different models of republics, and got into working groups to discuss them.
I was very fortunate to meet both the Governor General and her husband. But I have to admit I was shaking in my boots.
It is an experience I shall never forget. She told me that I would be an excellent advocate and her speech had me in tears, especially when she spoke of the work she did for those with cerebral palsy. She spoke of the importance of us giving back to our communities.
After leaving the Governor General’s residence, we were off to the High Court of Australia to have our official dinner and hear speeches from some inspiring people. Later we had a tour of the court. It was really great to be in the presence of so many amazing people who have made a difference to our country.
The next day I spoke on ABC Gippsland breakfast radio, where I was asked what it was like for a Gippsland girl to be in Canberra meeting so many great people. I modestly replied, stating that I would have never thought it was ever possible for a Gippsland girl to achieve such a thing.
I went on to say that I had learnt so much from the convention, especially in relation to helping out in the community, and that it was a great honour to be representing my college and area of Gippsland.
After the interview it was back off to Old Parliament House where we engaged in more conversation and had a vote on whether we should become a republic.
According to the youth of this convention, we should become a republic.
Later we presented our communiqué to the senior senate person and visited the National Archives of Australia. We then had a long trip home.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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