“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
I am tempted to write that nurturing democracy has never been more important. It always has been but one senses that in established successful democracies, like Australia, we take much for granted, especially regarding the practical cogs and mechanisms that keep civil society moving, dare I say it, forward. At Dapto High School, our ‘authentic democracy’ program of guest speakers and facilitators who serve the community, in an elected capacity, is ‘moving forward’ thanks to an impressive level of student engagement.
Last night, Justin, Dylan & Jaycee, three of our (SRC) Student Representative Council members, presented their ideas at the Open Access Forum hosted by Wollongong City Council prior to their formal meeting. They were supported, cheered on metaphorically-speaking, by peers and teachers who also attended this council meeting. These SRC students hope to influence the council to support a range of proposals including improved fitness and leisure facilities for residents, safer access for pedestrians and cyclists along Bong Bong Road and more mutual cooperation with our landcare group on environmental issues around the school. The local newspaper wrote about the students success and the council tweeted at the end of their speeches. It was also interesting for the student to hear other community members express concerns and ideas at this forum.
It is important to note that the Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery, facilitated, earlier in the day, the third ‘authentic democracy’ workshop in our program, following on from the good work of Stephen Jones MP and Vicki Curran, our local Ward 3 councillor. The mayor spoke eloquently on a range of topics and facilitated a thoughtful conversation with our student leaders about a host of issues of interest to them. He generously, when asked, shared his personal journey and thoughts about communication, public speaking and vision for the future of our region. Gordon assisted the students to prepare for their presentations later in the day at the forum.
Our school needs to do more, in a practical, authentic sense, to nurture students understanding about their rights and responsibilities in our democracy. However, I personally feel that we are growing young leaders who will make a difference in the coming years.
We are planting!
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/8180028780/