Victorian RYA meet with Victorian Minister for Education

In December the Victorian group of Rural Youth Ambassadors met (online) with the Victorian Minister for Education the Honorary James Merlino.

We presented our final report for the year which included details of rural student experiences throughout 2020 and recommendations for how rural education could be improved.

We are a group of young people from all over rural Victoria. We were nominated by our schools to participate in the Country Education Partnership’s 2020 Rural Youth Ambassador Program. We come from every corner of the state, from schools differing in size and culture, to discuss the experiences of young people in our area and to build our leadership capacity.

We have been really excited by the opportunity to be part of the RYA program and disappointed that we had to do it all remotely. However, we are happy to be able to present a report of our deliberations for this year. It has been a tough year, battling the impacts of both the bushfires and coronavirus. However, we feel these experiences have given us a unique perspective on what the future of rural education could look like rural communities.

While there are definite advantages of growing up in a rural community, we do still face certain challenges. We struggle to access resources, quality teachers and mental health support.

This year, we have focused on four key areas that we believe could change the future of our education for the better. These are:
• Schools working together in local geographic areas to provide a greater breadth of
learning for all students
• A flexible learning arrangement with a blended learning approach to make our education more personalised and engaging; including uploading resources to an online platform that all students can access
• Sharing our teachers across a group of schools
• Sharing trained mental health support staff across a group of schools to ensure that every student has access to the support they need, and young people are able to seek support confidentially.

The Minister for Education was extremely supportive of the group’s ideas.

“I always take the ideas you put forward and take them seriously,” he said. “I have follow up discussions with the department and we have a good track record of picking up your ideas and making them a reality.”

“[I would also like] to say how proud I am, as Minister for Education this has been the toughest year, our teachers, staff and principals have been brilliant, but students most importantly have been brilliant. You are so resilient there is nothing that the world can’t throw at you.”

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