Gleneagles students call for Murray–Darling reform

Gleneagles students
Gleneagles College’s youth parliamentary team Luke Gablek, Jess Fitzgerald, Fergus Thomson, Brayden Dopper, Josh Davis and Angela Kavedzic.

By Ashleigh Barraclough

A group of students from Gleneagles Secondary College are fighting to protect the Murray–Darling Basin at the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament this week.

Year 10 and 11 students; Angela Kavedzic, Jess Fitzgerald, Luke Gablek, Josh Davis, Fergus Thomson and Brayden Dopper will debate their Bill about the Murray–Darling Basin in the chambers of Parliament House.

The management of the Murray–Darling Basin, which runs through Victoria, New South Wales, ACT, Queensland and South Australia, has attracted widespread criticism from scientists and environmentalists. Over the summer of 2018 and 2019, three mass fish kills occurred in the Murray–Darling near Menindee due to poor water quality.

The team was struck by the lack of action from the state government and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority which prompted the development of their Bill.

“It got to us that something that massive could happen without warning or blame. It really puzzled us. It drove us to think if we’ve identified problems, what can we do to solve them, or at least improve them?” Davis said.

The students are proposing a Victorian Royal Commission into the mismanagement of the Basin, and are advocating for the creation of a state government body to manage and protect the Basin.

The Bill also proposes creating education programs for primary and secondary school students on Victorian ecology and the Basin.

“We’re going to be able to educate the younger generations who are moving up into politics to understand why this is important and why it’s a problem they need to work on to solve,” Fitzgerald said.

The Gleneagles students’ determination to protect the Basin, which native species and people depend on, shows young Australians are greatly concerned about the state of the environment.

“Young people are active and engaged, not just in social issues, which are extremely important, but also in environmental and ecological issues of this state,” Davis said.

YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament is a program designed to give young Victorians a chance to be heard at the highest levels of state government.

Since 1987, more than 30 Youth Parliament Bills have gone on to become Victorian legislation.

YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament sits on the 1st, 2nd and 4th of July.

Ashleigh Barraclough is a member of the YMCA Youth Press Gallery.

This article originally appeared on Endeavour Hills Hallam Doveton Star Journal and Dandenong Star Journal, July 1, 2019.

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