Budding politician Tallen Howson is aiming high.
In fact, he declared his ambition for the nation’s top job when he was in Year 4.
“Everyone was going around in class saying what they wanted to be when they grew up,” he said.
“I said I wanted to be at the top of the bunch and I want to be the prime minister of Australia.”
Now in Year 9 at St Philip’s Christian College Cessnock, Tallen has just returned from his third stint in the YMCA NSW Junior Parliament.
The program brings together students in Years 7 to 9 who are passionate about leadership and advocacy for a range of activities including two ‘sitting’ days in the chambers at NSW Parliament House.
This year for the first time, participants had the opportunity go out into the community for the day to work on projects in their field.
Tallen’s committee was specifically focusing on juvenile justice, so they went to Don Bosco Youth Centre in St Mary’s to meet with members of the Sudanese community and assist them with various projects.
The junior parliamentarians were also required to create a report on some of the issues within the field they were assigned to, along with three recommendations.
The juvenile justice committee identified an issue with the sheer number of juvenile offenders and the fact that close to 80 percent reoffend when released from juvenile detention.
“I believe that the solution to this issue is not to have stricter punishment but to support these troubled youth, in order for them to support themselves and positively contribute to our society,” Tallen said.
The committee recommended early intervention in schools, and rehabilitation in detention centres.
At the end of the sitting week, all ideas discussed in the chamber were presented to NSW MPs for consideration as policy and legislation.
A copy of Tallen’s report was taken by NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton.
Tallen said the program was a magnificent experience.
“I had the opportunity to represent my community and do something that would actually help those in need,” he said.
“I am extremely passionate about giving the youth of my community not just a voice that can be heard, but a voice that will be listened to and taken seriously.”
YMCA NSW CEO Leisa Hart said the program continues to break new ground every year.
“By simply giving our young people a platform to be heard, we open up so many opportunities to improve and strengthen our communities through their ideas,” Ms Hart said.
“I am incredibly proud that the YMCA NSW Junior Parliament program gives young people a strong voice.”
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