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Constitutional Convention 2018

Earlier this term, a group of enthusiastic Year 10 students attended the 2018 Constitutional Convention at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School. The Siena students who attended the Convention were Isabelle Bates, Ruby Flynn, Sophie Duvnjak, Mia Horozides, Bridget Hoy, Angela Mantarakis, Bianca Pignataro, Sarah Russell, Katya Scacco and Charlotte Taylor. Along with around ninety students from fourteen schools, the girls spent a thought provoking day participating in a series of sessions designed to increase their understanding of the Australian Constitution, its function, history and the complex process for alteration. The focus of the Convention was the contention 'That Australia should amend its Constitution and mandate an equal representation of males and females in Federal Parliament'. 

The program began with presentations from three guest speakers: Mr John Pesutto MP, Ms Jessica Wilson and journalist and politician, Ms Mary Delahunty. The speakers engaged the students by providing a broad range of ideas and personal insights into the topic under discussion. Following these presentations, the students established plenary groups to explore specific discussion topics. Subjects included the ‘Historical context of women in Australian Government’, ‘Current Australian Federal Parliament Levels of Representation’ and ‘Constitutional changes and previous issues considered worthy of amendment’. These topics promoted much fervent discussion and sharing of ideas within each group. 

In the afternoon session, each table presented the group’s position on their given topic. Next came the Soapbox session, with individuals sharing their opinions or thoughts with the assembly on any related topic. This proved to be one of the highlights of the program, sparking much passionate debate on a range of subjects.  

In the last session, each table voted together in a mini referendum: 'That Australia should amend its Constitution and mandate an equal representation of males and females in Federal Parliament'.  Each table represented an Australian State or Territory. The result was a resounding ‘No’.

The day’s program provided students with valuable insights into the Australian Constitution. It was inspiring to watch representatives of the next generation of leaders debate a broad range of often contentious issues, respectful of each other’s opinions.

Student reflections

'The sessions prompted me to think about my views and opinions about the topic. It was an eye-opening and fun experience, which is what I liked most. I also learnt about seats in Parliament.'  Angela Mantarakis

'I liked today as it showed everyone’s different perspective on the issue of equal gender representation in Federal Parliament. We discussed different issues society is facing.'  Charlotte Taylor

'I learned about what it takes to change the Constitution. The whole Convention was educational and listening to everyone’s opinions and beliefs was interesting.' Sarah Russell


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