A group of Swinburne students fought for the rights of fellow students at Spring Street during this year’s YMCA Victorian Youth Parliament Program.
Held over three days in July, the program gave Victorians aged under 25 a chance to be heard at the highest level of State Government.
Twenty teams with six participants each researched and debated a State Issue, before presenting it in the form of a Bill to members in the Parliamentary chambers.
Swinburne students Ian Baxendine, Anisha Purswani, Deena Mitchell, Cameron Nash, Payal Gondaliya, and Sam Fitzpatrick represented Swinburne for the fourth time.
They entered a Bill into the program about the ‘Introduction of Mandatory Intern Programs’. The Swinburne team argued that the Bill enables University students to gain experience in the workplace, whilst addressing youth unemployment.’
“Internships enable students to understand how theories learnt in classrooms integrates with practical learning while working with professionals,” the Bill reads.
After researching ‘industry-based’ learning programs available at Swinburne, the group created a program which allowed for companies within Victoria to offer a full-time internship program to students who maintain a credit average, or higher.
Running anywhere between four and twelve months, the program provides interns with professional work experience in a structured learning environment.
Third year psychology student and team leader, Ian Baxendine said there is a lot of competition for jobs and undergraduates often reach the end of their degree without work experience or specialised industry knowledge.
“A lot of jobs get passed by new graduates and are given to more experienced people in the field. I’d like to think our bill aims to change that,” he said.
“[The idea] came about as a product of brainstorming. I believe it was due to this being an issue we felt affected many of us, and our peers”.
Members were encouraged to develop their own personal opinions and consider the impact of each bill in Victoria if it were enacted.
“The debating was fun,” Ian said.
“I enjoyed passing notes around to give other members of our side something to stand up and talk about, and it was also quite fun debating our own bill and coming up with new ways of seeing it each time”.
Third year Politics and Public Policy student, Cameron Nash said being able to actually debate on the floor of parliament was great.
“I had heaps of younger participants come up and ask me for guidance about parliament since they found out that I study politics, which left me feeling really great,” he said.
After successfully being passed by the Youth Parliament, the bill was given the assent of the Youth Governor and Minister for Youth Affairs, Ryan Smith before being passed on to the relevant government ministers for consideration.
First year Commerce student and team member, Payal Gondaliya said she initially felt confident that their Bill would pass, however after meeting with ministers, she felt sceptical.
“We as a team did our best to defend our Bill,” she said.
“As an international student, even in my wildest dreams I had no clue that someday I would get this precious chance of seeing the Bill pass”.
If the team’s Bill is made legislation, Victorian companies will provide an internship or mentoring program to tertiary students for a minimum of 15 hours per week, or a maximum of 36.
Payal said she hopes the government can see the importance of the bill from macro perspective.
“I believe that it is extremely essential for the economy to enable the workplace to work in their own field of interest and mastery,” she said.
“I hope that by introducing the internships, the government will be able to help students actually work in their area of interest and in turn, help the economy grow as a whole”.
The Bill, which required no division in the house due to a majority vote, would greatly benefit those taking part in Higher Education, Cameron said.
“There is a problem finding jobs, and the intention was to equip them with a tangible experience in their particular field before they graduate”.
As the inspiring experience came to a close, members of the Swinburne team said they were already looking forward to returning to the chambers in 2015.
“The best part was meeting brilliant young minds, full with varied ideas of the betterment of the economy,” Payal said.
“I have learnt a lot from the young people I met, and I felt a lot more confident after interacting with these young school kids who have so much to add for the benefit of the country”.
However, it was also the support of Swinburne and the SSAA, which allowed the team to have such an overwhelming experience.
“Swinburne was fantastic support. I was having cold feet about going on the program, and Paul Kneebone from the SSAA walked me through what [would] happened and put my mind at ease,” he said.
The SSAA has sponsored the YMCA Youth Parliament Program since 2011, something that Payal said she is very grateful for.
“I would like to thank them for providing us a platform to raise our voice at such a valuable forum. SSAA has been an integral and motivating factor behind our Bill,” she said.
Applications for the 2015 Youth Parliament Program are now open, for anyone interested in creating positive change in their country.
More than twenty Bills passed by Youth Parliament in previous years have become law, including mandatory wearing of bike helmets and zero blood alcohol content for those accompanying learner drivers.