National Indigenous Youth Parliament

Hayden Gibbs-O'Neill

Three NSW Aboriginal high school students are heading to Canberra this month to debate issues affecting their communities at the first National Indigenous Youth Parliament.

Part of 50 students selected nationally as possible future Indigenous leaders, the participants will spend a week learning how government works, how laws are made and attend public speaking workshops to sharpen their media skills.

They will meet political leaders, debate Indigenous issues and participate in a mock parliament in the chambers of Old Parliament House, being "paired" with a real senator or member of the House of Representatives.

The National Indigenous Youth Parliament, held to mark the 50th anniversary of Indigenous people winning the right to vote in federal elections, is run by the Australian Electoral Commission in conjunction with the YMCA.

Chosen for their leadership skills, Tameka O'Donnell from Broken Hill High School, Jason O'Neill from Dubbo High School and Hayden Gibbs-O'Neill from The Canobolas Rural Technology High School said they were all looking forward to the experience.

Tameka is a vice-captain and is the Murdi Paaki Young Leader in her region.

Jason is the school captain and is committed to maintaining his native language through voluntary work with the Wiradjuri Language website.

Hayden has been on the SRC for five years and has assisted in the development of a junior education consultative council as well as a 'Yarning Circle'.

He said he wanted to gain first-hand experience to see how the government was run.

"My aim is to make connections that will support me with making change within my local community," Hayden said.

Canobolas Rural Technology High School principal Chris Condliffe said Hayden was an excellent choice for the National Indigenous Youth Parliament and representative of young Aboriginal people.

"Hayden has been an exemplary student leader for many years here at Canobolas," Mr Condliffe said.

 "The exposure to how parliament works and the opportunity to meet other Indigenous students who are keen to make a difference for their community, will serve him well into the future."

Photo: Hayden Gibbs-O'Neill. Photo by Vince Lovecchio.

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