By Ashleigh Barraclough
Gleneagles Secondary College students’ bid to protect the Murray–Darling Basin has successfully passed 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.
It included 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,” Mr Gablek said.
The opposition questioned if this was an issue Victorian Parliament should be handling, given how much of the Basin was outside the state.
The Gleneagles students argued Victoria could 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 passionately discussed 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.