By Gabriella Payne (YMCA Youth Press Gallery member)

Five alumni from the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) represented and successfully passed their Bill in the YMCA Youth Parliament program earlier this week, paving the way for better drug education in Victorian secondary schools.

Olivia Bonanno, Joseph Yugumbari, Bek Lasky, Anaika Havea and Isabella Atkinson met through the Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leadership (REAL) Program at KGI, a leadership and cultural strengthening program Richmond’s KGI to develop the next generation of Indigenous leaders.

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) partner with the KGI’s REAL Program to strengthen participant’s understanding and confidence in government and decision making processes, and encourage participants to be active community members and influence positive change.

KGI has been involved with Youth Parliament since 2013, a program which gives young people (aged 16-25) an opportunity to voice their opinions in Victorian politics and to affect real change. Since the program started 32 years ago, more than 25 Youth Parliament Bills have gone on to become legislation.

“It’s really empowering just to get our voice out there, for our people,” said Joseph.

The whole team are passionate about Indigenous culture, family and community and strongly believe in looking out for the generations of students to follow. They are hoping to affect positive change with their Bill, by raising awareness about the issues surrounding drug use and providing a solution to the problem.

“Normally you’re exposed to the ‘drugs are bad, don’t do them’ education,” said Olivia, “but no one ever really tells you what to do if you’re faced with them.”

Drugs often have a “backhanded impact on the user’s loved ones,” said Bek, “this affects friends, family and the wider community in many ways.

By implementing compulsory drug education in Victorian secondary schools and improving the curriculum, the team believe we will be taking a step towards eliminating drug use in our society.

“It affects everyone, no matter what social class or minority you come from,” said Anaika, “and as a secondary student, I can strongly say that I am uneducated on the topic of drugs.”

The team passionately debated their Bill topic successfully, as well as raising important overarching issues in the Adjournment Debates the previous day. Issues such as reducing the number of Indigenous youth in detention, the inclusion of Indigenous history in Victorian school curriculums, and providing better education for remote Indigenous communities were all discussed in parliament.

“It’s so important to have Indigenous representation for us,” said Bek, “we value this opportunity.”

The students Bill will now be passed on to the Victorian Government, for consideration to be made legislation.