Students’ Murray–Darling Basin Bill passes

The team members are from left to right, back to front: Josh Davis, Luke Gablek, Fergus Thomson, Julian Oraison, Brayden Dopper and Jess Fitzgerald.

By Ashleigh Barraclough

Students from Gleneagles Secondary College have successfully passed their Bill to protect the Murray–Darling Basin in YMCA Victoria’s Youth Parliament.

Year 10 and 11 students Jess Fitzgerald, Luke Gablek, Josh Davis, Fergus Thomson, Brayden Dopper and Julian Oraison debated their Bill in Victoria’s Parliament House last week.

This includes a Victorian Royal Commission, the creation of a Victorian office to manage the Basin, installing water aerators, revegetation and primary and secondary school education programs.

During debate, Mr Davis stated the current management of the Basin is ‘unquestionably a disaster’.

“The Murray–Darling Basin Authority haven’t exactly done anything to prevent the decimation of the most important water system in the country,” he said.

“Climate change and environmental degradation will be the defining issues of our generation.”

The students believe the issues surrounding the Basin, which runs through five states, affect all Australians—even those who don’t live near it.

“We’re just some kids from the South-East, we’re the furthest point away from the Murray–Darling you can get without being in Tasmania,” said Mr Gablek.

The opposition questioned if this is an issue Victorian Parliament should be handling, given how much of the Basin lies outside the state. The Gleneagles students, however, believe Victoria can be the catalyst for instigating reform.

“If we all sit back and say, ‘the other states are capable of it’, no one takes specific action,” said Mr Dopper.

The preservation of Indigenous land and the inclusion of Indigenous voices was also discussed during debate.

“As a proud Indigenous woman, whose country sits alongside the Murray–Darling—Yorta Yorta country—I commend the Gleneagles students for putting forward this Bill,” said Scout Payne, another Youth Parliament participant.

The students are one of 20 teams debating a Bill in Youth Parliament this week.

“I think the fact this is coming from Youth Parliament is not important. It should be an issue for all people, of all ages, for all demographics,” said Mr Thomson.

Both sides of the chamber were passionate about the Basin, causing heated discussion around the best way to solve the river system’s myriad problems. The Bill passed by one vote.

The Bill will now be presented to the Minister for Youth Gabrielle Williams to consider for Victorian legislation.

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

This article originally appeared on the Dandenong Star Journal and Endeavour Hills Hallam Doveton Star Journal, July 9 2019.

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