November 10, 2016

Annabelle Pendlebury

Meet the Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School Youth Parliament Team

We are the future and we have a lot to say.”

The YMCA Youth Parliament has once again proven to be an incredible opportunity for young people, as students who participated in the Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School team say the 2016 event was another huge success.

This year, the Ivanhoe Girls team in the Youth Parliament consisted of Sophie Eagling-Every, Sophia Gruener, Estella Howse-Flemming, Brianna Kline, Laura Jeffries and Tegan Bell.

Sophie Eagling-Every has nothing but enthusiastic praise for this “amazing program”.

“Youth Parliament for all six of us was a truly incredible experience that we would recommend to all young Victorians and others who have Youth Parliament in their countries or states.”

“The program is so inspiring and the like minded people that you meet who discuss issues that you wouldn’t have thought of will open your minds to so many different possibilities. It was an absolute privilege to attend this camp and to be given the opportunity as youth to have a voice,” she says.

“The program was so much fun and we would all recommend it to anyone who wishes to partake in it.”

Organised in conjunction with the Victorian Government, the YMCA event offers young people aged 16 to 25 years the unique chance to have a say in Parliament.

20 teams from schools, universities and community groups across Victoria participate in a three-day debating session in the Victorian Parliament. Each team presents a Bill that is then debated, ultimately providing a platform to bring matters of importance for young people to the attention of the state Government.

The Ivanhoe Girls Grammar team achieved an exciting accomplishment. Their Bill regarding free sanitary products for girls and women was passed in the Youth Parliament this year.

The real-world implications of the Bill are significant, considering that in Australia the Goods and Services Tax (GST) still classifies female sanitary items as a taxable ‘luxury item’.

Other items, such as condoms and nicotine patches, are classified as essential health products and are therefore GST exempt. Yet, sanitary items are an unavoidable and essential product for women. Access to them protects the reproductive health and hygiene of half of the population of Australia, proving the luxury classification to be truly bizarre.

Of the inspiration behind their Bill, Sophie says,

“As a team of young women from an all-girls school we felt that girls were in really great need for this Bill considering that sanitary products are considered a luxury when they are a necessity for all woman.”

“The committee that we wanted to set up as part of our Bill allowed girls in senior schools to have a voice in their communities and this was important to us because we wanted to give opportunities to girls who would otherwise not be heard, so this was also something that all six of us felt very passionately about.”

“The bulk of the Bill… provided vouchers to girls to purchase sanitary products [and was about] trying to help those people who possibly can’t afford them. The overall aim of the bill was to eradicate inequality for women that is evident in our society everyday … this inequality was something that we were all very passionate about.”

Each team’s Bill is voted upon in the Youth Parliament and if it passes, then the Bill is given to the Government and is taken into consideration by the Government ministers. The Youth Parliament therefore has the power to impact directly upon real-world politics and has definitely done so in the past, with state legislation such as roadside drug testing for drivers and over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill originating in previous year’s Youth Parliaments.


Sophie says of the Bill passing, “We were very happy of course … Hopefully with it being passed onto the member [in the state Government] who is relevant to our Bill, we can see it head into legislation or make discussion about this issue come alive.”

The Youth Parliament allowed students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in public speaking and debating, as well as learning about the importance of listening to a wide array of viewpoints and the nature of Parliamentary sessions.

“Literally everything that we learnt on this camp we can take away and use in our lives even if we never debate in Parliament House again.”

“Even though we were all mostly comfortable with public speaking, Youth Parliament still taught us how to be more confident and clear when delivering our speeches and how to quickly think of points for and against any topic that was brought up,” Sophie says.

“I can personally say that … it helped me so much to be more confident when public speaking and writing debates.”

Sophie goes on to say, “we also learnt the incredible ways that an actual parliamentary session is run and how to respect and understand others’ views.”

“Coming out of Youth Parliament, we can all say that we had the best experience and every single second of it was worthwhile. Heading into the future we can never know what it holds for us but Youth Parliament certainly impacted [upon us] and the memories we take away from it will guide us in our future endeavours.”

Sophie reiterates just how powerful the voice of young people can really be.

She was amazed to see “how many young people there are who have such valid and incredible opinions and insight into so many different issues in our world today … Every single member of [the] task force and every participant who attended the camp was so supportive and ready to express their opinions.”

“The biggest benefit of young people participating in Youth Parliament is that their voices are being heard, which is something that does not happen enough. We are the future and we have a lot to say.”

– Annabelle Pendlebury









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