When student voices are listened to and encouraged, the change is remarkable 

VicSRC is led by 15 students who make up the VicSRC Executive. At the VicSRC Recognition Awards on 29 October, 17 year old Matty Sievers made the keynote address. The Bendigo Senior Secondary College is in his first term on the Exec, and he’s determined to make the most of it. We hope you enjoy his powerful speech.

Matty Sievers

Good evening. It is such an honour to be here tonight with such distinguished guests –supporters, like-minded organisations, government representatives, tireless teachers and principals, and most importantly – students.

There’s a story I’d like to share with you all. This story, although based half in truth and half in fiction, is a story that changed the way I view the world.

After winning the Nobel prize in 1918, Professor Max Planck went around Germany giving talks. His driver heard the talk so many times that he knew it off by heart, and one day asked Planck if he could give the address. Planck agreed, they changed places, and the lecture came off famously. But then came the Q&A section. And sure enough, the first question is one that the driver could not for the life of him answer. So he replied rather patronizingly: “I’m surprised to hear such an elementary question on high energy physics here in Munich. It’s so simple, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer it.”

Now, how does this story relate to student voice? It brings to light two types of knowledge in this world. Planck Knowledge, and Driver Knowledge. Those who have Plank knowledge are the people who in their topic, it is their life and they know it inside out. Those with Driver Knowledge are the people who observe the topic and make judgments based on their observations.

In our school system for many years, the decisions were made by the Drivers. These drivers have been through school, no doubt. But the key words there are: have been. Drivers of course have important insight into what school is like today. But any education system is left wanting when it misses the fundamental piece of the puzzle in the decision making: the passenger or, better yet, the students.

So when someone says, to me, ‘why does student voice matter’ or, ‘why does VicSRC matter?’, I tell them that you wouldn’t put a blindfold on a driver and then put a passenger in the car with them. So why do the same with our schools?

Students don’t just deserve a say in the way their schools are governed and run, we need a say. To do that, we need to be at the decision making table together. We need to have hands on the wheel as well. Which is why this event is so special.

Tonight, we’re celebrating and acknowledging students and teachers across Victoria who have taken it upon themselves to get involved with their school and to clasp their hands on the wheel and drive their education in a better direction.

To see so many people give up their Thursday night to come here and celebrate student voice, shows that this is an issue many of us care passionately about. And to see Student Voice as a main priority in the recently released Education State is fantastic, and makes all the effort we’ve put in so far worth it.

VicSRC has just celebrated our 10th anniversary. In that amount of time, we have achieved more than just barbecues and fundraisers, we’ve pushed beyond that into new territory of school leadership and Governance and the impact we have had been felt wide and far. Just from the turn out tonight, from seeing all facets of the Education system represented in solidarity for student voice, we cannot even begin to think what the next ten years will bring to students across our State.

What I think people are starting to realize is that when students are heard, when our voices are listened to and encouraged, the change is remarkable. We see schools enable the innovators and dreamers and artists and scientists and thinkers who will change the world for the better. These schools will bring out people who will follow their passion, people who will care for others and care for themselves. People who will nurture one another, and make positive changes to the world we live in. All because they came from a system that did the same for them.

That is why student voice matters. That’s why we need the time of day to be heard. That’s why we need to be listened to and that is why we need to keep working together to make student voice no longer a privilege or a token gesture, but a right and a regular occurrence in all schools across Victoria.

Together we can transform the nature of our education system. We can turn it into something profound that is talked about across the world. Students in America and Europe will look at Victoria as an example of how education should be. A system that positions students, teachers and policy makers in partnership.  We are a lucky country in that we can critique and adapt our education system; let’s not waste that opportunity.

So I ask, to all educators, principals, parents and board members:

Will you drive with us?

Thank you.


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