Future Voices Canberra trip on Monday 12, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 June 2017 was a valuable opportunity for the participants to learn about our Federal Government and hear from our politicians and other diplomatic leaders based in Canberra. We thank all those involved for their insights and life lessons shared with the group and also for sharing their valuable time with us on a busy sitting day. This trip was life changing for many. Additional thanks to the Office of Damian Drum MP, Federal Member for Murray, for assisting us with the day, organizing rooms and a special visit and photo with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull MP.
Day 1 comprised travel by bus from Shepparton to Canberra, enjoying the changing scenery and learning a little about the geography and settlement of this part of Australia. Arriving in Canberra, we settled into the hotel, and thank the management for organizing halal and vegan food for us while we were there.
Day 2 saw us arrive at Parliament House at 8.30 am and met in the foyer and shown to our Conference room for the day
Our first speaker was Mrs. Julia Duhaut-Bedas, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of France in Canberra, Australia. She spoke at length about her training and personal and professional journey as a diplomat, highlighting the decisions and choices that need to be made, especially with a young family to consider. The life of a diplomat is very rewarding but it is a life of constantly moving countries and changing homes. This is something that has to be considered carefully when choosing this career, which is a career for life.
She spoke about her education and training, the languages that she speaks and the structure of the diplomatic posting process, time spent away and time spent in the mother country every 3 years.
Our second speaker was a senior advisor to the Hon Christian Porter MP, Minister for Social Services. The group was very keen to talk about social inclusion policies and implementation of government policy to support this. Our speaker also shared some life journey stories and was keen to hear similar stories of challenges and hopes and dreams from our diverse group of refugee and migrant youth. One of our participants talked about his early life coming to Australia as a baby on a boat that sank. He was unconscious and thought to be dead for about 30 minutes, but revived. He and his family spent the first few years on Manus Island, before finally settling in Shepparton.
Participants discussed building stronger regional engagement with Andrew Broad MP and Senator McKenzie before moving to Parliament House Question time to observe the action. This was a session joined by Damian Drum MP, Federal Member for Murray, who visited us several times during the day for a chat and discussions.
Afternoon speakers included His Excellency Jean Luck Bodson, the Ambassador of Belgium in Canberra, Australia, who gave an insightful presentation on his journey as a diplomat in various world postings.
Midafternoon we received a message that the Prime Minister was available for a photo shoot and to meet the group, which was very exciting. We made our way to the Prime Minister’s private courtyard where we all shook hands with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull MP and grouped together for some photos. After that we were invited inside for a chat in the foyer, but the PM noted that it was cold and invited us in to his private office to sit for 10 minutes, ask questions and hear from him.
The participants asked questions about refugee policies, euthanasia, job satisfaction, time management and types of tea (that he drinks). One of the participants thanked him on behalf of the group for his time and support to Future Voices, which we hope will continue.
This session was the highlight of a wonderful day in parliament for our Future Voices group.
Our final session was a terrific presentation on how our political system works and the design/structure of the building and its architectural significance. This was followed by a tour of the building and plenty of “selfies”.
On our final day, before travelling back to Shepparton, we visited the Art Gallery and its sculpture gardens, followed by time spent at the Australian War Memorial looking at the history and memorabilia contained their and appreciating the siting of this building in visual alignment with Parliament House. Stopping in Yass for lunch, we then took to the road for the journey home, arriving right on schedule back in Shepparton.
Many of the participants said that “this has been the very best experience of my life”.