Listening to children in the Cardinia Shire community

Published: 12 September 2019

100 Grade 6 students from across the shire gathered at the Pakenham Hall yesterday to celebrate Council’s 2019 Student Leaders Conference.

The conference was an opportunity for students to have a voice in Council’s work. Students participated in team building activities and consulted with a number of Council teams including Recreation, Outdoor Space, Environment and Ageing Well. 

Students also heard from special guest speaker, former Pakenham Secondary College School Captain and refugee, Mehdi Ahmadi, who spoke about  resilience and courage, and shared his insights into what it takes to be a good leader.

The conference was planned and run by students who took on roles such as media liaison, greeters and music and audio support.

Cardinia Shire Mayor and Children’s Ambassador Councillor Graeme Moore was delighted by the day’s success and said he was excited to see what the next generation of leaders have in store for the local community. 

“Here at Cardinia Shire Council we are so proud to be a Child Friendly City because we truly believe that children can offer brilliant contributions to our planning, design and delivery of services.”

“It was amazing to walk around the hall and hear all the student’s excellent ideas, as well as seeing their enthusiasm to become capable and collaborative leaders,” Cr Moore said.

William from Beaconhills College, Pakenham Campus said the conference was an opportunity for students in Cardinia Shire to not only grow and develop as leaders, but also to feel they had a voice in local activities and for schools to come together.

“The conference gives young leaders the opportunity to develop their skills and grow confidence – from the start of the planning sessions to the final day, it was amazing to do more than what we do at school. By sharing our thoughts and ideas with the Council, we’ve been able to develop a sense of identity as young leaders and develop our complex thinking and decision-making skills,” he said.

“Students need to feel that they matter and are included in the classroom and within society. It motivates them and they become more engaged within the world around them and within the classroom setting.

“Students from different schools came together and got to know and work with each other, which doesn’t happen enough. We can now take this experience back to school and encourage other students at school to participate in local events,” William said.

Amelia from Koo Wee Rup Primary School said the event’s consultation activities gave Cardinia Shire student leaders a chance to be heard.

“Adults should listen to us because children have a different perspective on life and we have, most of the time, pretty good ideas,” she said.

“In the activities we got to draw what we wanted in our parks, sort what rubbish goes into what bin, share ideas about how to include the elderly in our day-to-day community life, and learn about trees and the environment.

“The ageing well activity was fun and we wrote down our ideas on sticky notes. It’s important to think about including wheelchair ramps and hand railing to make community places easily accessible,” Amelia said.

Jackson from Pakenham Consolidated School said it’s important to listen to children in the community because they provide a different perspective to adults.

“Children have a good perspective. We're going to be the next generation of leaders and one of us might become the Prime Minister. Adults should listen to us now because then we’ll grow up and be the leaders who listen to kids.

“Thank you to all the students, teachers, Council, and special guest Medhi, for all planning that went into the day, for coming out to the event, and making it possible,” he said.

Darcy from John Henry Primary School said the event was fun and a great way for Council to listen to children.

“The conference and the activities we did were fun because we got to share our ideas and it’s good to know that our input helps future plans for some of the projects that Council is working on,” she said.

Cardinia Shire Council endorsed the Victorian Child Friendly Cities charter in 2015 and endeavours to provide children with opportunities to become involved in making decisions that affect them, their communities and their wellbeing.

“In adopting the Child Friendly Cities Charter, Council wished to highlight the importance we place on listening to children’s voices,” Cr Moore said.

“The charter, as well as programs such as the Student Leaders Conference, continues to encourage Council to include children in everyday decisions, assuring them that they are important citizens in our community.”

For more information about Cardinia Shire’s role as a Child Friendly City, visit Council’s website at www.cardinia.vic.gov.au/cfc or call the Community and Family Services team on 1300 787 624.