I rise to speak this evening about the ACT Interschool Parliamentary Debating program. I had the pleasure of presiding over a session as Speaker recently, here in the Legislative Assembly.

On 10 April students from St Francis Xavier College, St Edmunds College, Narrabundah College, Canberra College, Lake Tuggeranong College and Daramalan College took part in what has become a very popular debating challenge.

This session is part of the Legislative Assembly’s broader education program and seeks to give students an introduction to the Assembly, an experience of debating in the Westminster tradition, the opportunity to practise public speaking skills in the formal setting of the chamber, and knowledge and experience in working with parliamentary terminology and practices.

Sitting in the Speaker’s chair definitely reinforced for me the important work our own Speaker and deputy speakers do in this place. It was a great opportunity to get a different perspective of debate.

I have to commend the students. Their debate was of a very high quality and very informed. Anyone who thinks young people have little interest in politics or issues in our community simply needs to come along to one of these sessions and listen to the students.

They debated a range of issues, including whether Australia needs to review its current contribution to foreign aid, whether the policy of direct action addresses climate change successfully, and whether or not the introduction of point-to-point cameras focuses on revenue raising rather than safety.

They were all very good questions; I think you would have to agree. The subsequent debates were well informed and passionately argued.

Each school brought four team members to debate an allocated topic, as well as providing questions on notice to another school. After the presenting team responded to these questions, the floor was opened up to questions without notice.

It was great to see how engaged the students were, as well as how intelligently and passionately they responded to the issues.

The quality of debate presented by these young people was incredible—not only the intelligent and well-formed content of their arguments but also the respectful and passionate way in which they debated.

It was wonderful to see so many students so engaged in political matters and to see the talent and passion that they brought to the chamber. That is not to say that we do not bring such talent and passion to the chamber every sitting day!

I sincerely hope that the students who participated got something out of the sessions, and that it might have sparked an interest for some of them in a future political career.

I think it is tremendous that young people are engaging with the Assembly in a number of ways.

Another example of this was my recent work experience student, Freya Brent, who chose to come to my office to work during her recent school holidays. Freya is a year 12 student at Radford College, and it was an enormous pleasure to have her in the office last month and give her the opportunity to get an understanding of the kind of work we do.

Freya helped write speeches, research issues and attended meetings and events. It was a pleasure to have her in the office. Again, Freya is another young woman that gives us confidence in our future.

I would like to thank the Legislative Assembly staff for their work on the parliamentary debate and also for helping Freya to get set up for the week she was here and making her feel welcome.

I thank them for all the work they do to engage ACT students and the broader community and to help them get a better understanding of our democratic processes here in the Assembly.