Standing at the podium in Parliament House Canberra, Victorian student Danae
Haynes had a simple but inspiring message for the nation’s leaders.
Entire communities can change with just one individual.
She had the ear of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, plus 80 politicians, journalists and staffers.
“If you and I just rethink after judging or labelling somebody, we can be the change Australia needs,” she said.
Danae, a year 10 student from Wyndham Central College in Victoria, was one of three top presenters chosen from a field of 646 students across Australia.
The students competed in a project called the “Other Election,” run by the non-profit organisation Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) that aims to lift education participation among indigenous youth.
The students were given the task of writing and delivering the inaugural speech of Australia’s first indigenous Prime Minister. The speeches were filmed and posted to The Other Election website, and the public voted to pick the top ten speeches.
The winners were flown to Sydney for a busy couple of days receiving professional mentoring and delivering their speeches before senior corporate executives, sports stars and media personalities.
From there, three winners were selected to present their speeches in Canberra.
Joining Danae was Jayden Gerrand, a year 11 student from Trinity College in Western Australia, and Shannon Hart-Cole, a year 11 student from Warnbro Community High School , also in WA.
Jayden delivered a rousing rally cry; “This speech is for that kid who not only dreams but brings it to life. This speech is for you.”
Shannon used his speech to share a simple message based on his experiences of racism; “I believe all Australians should be treated fairly and equally.”
The final speeches in Canberra marked an important milestone for AIME, founded in 2005 by Jack Manning Bancroft and now delivering mentoring programs for more than 2000 students from year 7 to university.
“If we can see Indigenous kids finishing school at the same rate as every Australian kid, and shattering the mould that has been cast for them, then just imagine what’s possible,” Jack said.
AIME receives sponsorship from corporate partners such as the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation.