Community & Business

23 May, 2024

Student takes school issues to state body

HOT topics such as youth crime, cultural diversity, mobile phone policies and bullying were at the forefront of the Ministerial Student Advisory Council, where Mareeba student Tashi Maxwell represented her peers and the Far North.

By Ellie Fink

Mareeba State High School student Tashi Maxwell (right) with Education Minister Dianne Farmer at the Ministerial Student Advisory Council.
Mareeba State High School student Tashi Maxwell (right) with Education Minister Dianne Farmer at the Ministerial Student Advisory Council.

After a very competitive application process, Tashi was one of two students selected to represent the Far North and voice their peers' opinions to Education Minister Dianne Farmer. 

Ahead of the meeting in Brisbane, Tashi  interviewed several students of different ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds and compiled their opinions and thoughts before presenting them. 

The biggest issue she brought to light was the normalisation of violence within schools in the region and how, if it were a Brisbane school, “everyone would know about it”. 

“A good example of this is the week before I went down, there was an incident at the school where a student was arrested, and I told (the advisory council) that if it were a Brisbane school or Sydney school, that news would be everywhere and it would be a big thing,” she said. 

“I said up here we need to work on getting past the normalisation of violence and crime and start setting boundaries and stricter rules.”

During her interviews with peers, Tashi  asked students to rate how safe they felt at school from one to 10 – one being not safe at all.  

The response was overwhelming, with Mareeba High students, on average, rating the school's safety a five. 

“Most of them said five, which isn’t what you want from a school. Everyone deserves to come to school and learn while feeling safe,” she said.

“We do not deserve to suffer that anxiety for just wanting to get an education, which is our right.”

Education Queensland’s no phone policy was also discussed at the meeting, with every representative from each school saying they disagreed with the way it was implemented into state schools. 

Tashi explained that Covid-19 lockdowns meant students were reliant on their devices for school work, and now that has been taken away from them, it was hard to readjust. 

“We were taught how to use technology in learning and that was sort of ripped away from us very suddenly,” she said. 

“We talked about how, because of this, students are being sneaky and using their phones in the toilets.

“It’s sort of 50/50 because I think a phone ban is a good idea, but the way they have implemented it is flawed, with so many loopholes and conditions that were not really considered. 

“We talked about how we need to allow technology in class in a way that works for their learning and not completely cutting off our connection to our resources.” 

The impacts of bullying have been felt by every student according to Ms Maxwell, who discussed with the advisory council how teachers could better support students. 

Tashi said while Mareeba State High School staff responded to reports of bullying very well, she believed teachers struggled to identify unreported incidents. 

“We spoke with the minister about our own personal experiences and how each of our schools responded to bullying and the policies they have in place,” she said. 

“I believe our school does a pretty good job at monitoring reported incidents, but they aren’t really able to recognise the signs that someone is being bullied.

“We then looked at strategies to improve the processes of identifying a bully or a victim and get involved sooner to prevent it getting worse.”

With Mareeba being home to more than  60 different cultures, Tashi said the conversation of cultural diversity was key when speaking on ways to make students feel more welcomed at school. 

Splitting into small groups with the other advisory council students, she brainstormed ways to make Mareeba State High School and other Queensland state schools a more inclusive environment. 

“We came up with heaps of ideas and compared them to other schools and it gave us all ideas of how we can include everyone at school – students and teachers, even cleaners,” she said. 

“We believe that everyone deserves to learn no matter the cultural background.”

Having the responsibility of representing students across the region was daunting for Tashi, but she said she was confident in the points she presented and hoped it would help make a difference for students across Queensland. 

“I really made sure to talk to as many students as I could from as many backgrounds as I could before I went down because I wanted to make sure I was getting every side of the story,” she said. 

Tashi will travel back to Brisbane in October for another advisory council meeting.


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