Captain’s Call: Listening To Hawthorn’s Young Leaders

On Monday, 26 April, John Kennedy hosted School Captains from across the Hawthorn electorate for lunch and round-table discussion.

In attendance were Ella and Adele from Auburn High School, Angus and Pearl from Camberwell High School, Harriette and Chloe from Siena College, and Franky and Emma from Strathcona Girls’ Grammar College, with apologies from other schools in the electorate.

The perspectives of young people are often overlooked in complex social and political discussions, despite the fact that they are our future electors, taxpayers, business owners, teachers… and legislators.

As such, John Kennedy,  the Member for Hawthorn, found it valuable to hear directly from the young people in his electorate. The eight student leaders in attendance  spoke with  clarity, passion and reason as they discussed some of the biggest issues we face as a society.

Among their shared passions were climate change, mental health, access to sport, travel and the arts, and gender equality. It became clear that one topic dominating the minds of young people is consent education.

​​The Andrews Government’s $85 million Respectful Relationships program is being rolled out across the state through a lead and partner school model. The program will support schools to embed respect and gender equality in all aspects of their culture – in the classroom, the playground, the staffroom, and the broader school community.

While student leaders are encouraged by the implementation of this new program, they are also realistic about the challenges this program will face in changing an established culture. It is a promising start but  dismantling entrenched behaviour and creating an environment where all young people feel safe will take time.

There was an even split of government and non-government schools present at the lunch. All four schools are engaged in the Respectful Relationships program. However, not all non-government schools are currently engaged in the program. Applications are now open for non-government schools to become a partner school and Mr Kennedy hopes more schools will register.

The Consent Education program has a dedicated workforce in place to support schools and their communities to implement a whole-school approach to Respectful Relationships and strengthen referrals and responses to family violence.