Ending Racism is Crucial to Mount Alexander Shire Participants

By Rebekah Andrews

Mount Alexander
Mount Alexander Shire participants fight against cultural illiteracy in Victoria. Credit: Emily Greco

Cultural illiteracy is a significant problem in Victoria, which is why six students from Mount Alexander Shire fought for it at State Parliament today, participating in the YMCA’s Victorian Youth Parliament program.

They offered the Compulsory Cultural Literacy Education Bill 2016 and debated it amid arguments that it was adding work to an already hectic schedule for teachers.

Their team focused on educating students and young people, instead of adults, with the idea to create a new generation of people with compassion and understanding, and therefore reduce rates of discrimination and bigotry.

“Education is key in the reduction of ignorance,” participant Meaghan Ferguson said during the debate.

If the bill were enforced at State Parliament level, it would mean multiple compulsory training sessions for teachers to be brought to primary and secondary schools across the State. This would lead to a more culturally literate Victoria.

“If people know from a young age, then you’ll raise a generation of voters that will know about the issues being discussed rather than blind faith,” participant Owen Shooter said.
“The reality is, we live in a multicultural society, we have to know how to function and know about that society. And at the moment people don’t.”


Owen Shooter.JPG
Owen Shooter debating the Compulsory Cultural Literacy Education bill in Parliament. Credit: Lexie Huculak


Their proposed education program involved the six major religions, Indigenous culture and history and global cultures, as well as the influence of cultures in the developing world.

With a broad scope, the students were hoping to ensure not only that the population is educated on a wide range of cultures, matched to the multi-cultural state in which we live, but to also encourage the discovery of cultures by the students themselves.

Both sides agreed that something did need to be done to reduce instances of racism. Adam Goodes’ ethnicity and Muslims being equated with terrorism were brought into the debate.

Ms Ferguson, representing the team, said that they worried about people who “can’t tell the difference between a Muslim and a terrorist.”

“That future is truly astonishing. And it shouldn’t occur in Victoria,” she said.

The specific clauses in the bill were the only thing disagreed upon within Youth Parliament.

The amended bill passed a vote, 35 to 19, in the Legislative Council earlier this morning and will go to the Youth Minister Jenny Mikakos to be considered.

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