CHLOE Bethune says the Korin Gamadji Institute’s involvement at Victorian Youth Parliament can form the steppingstones for a better community.
Chloe, a 19-year-old Martu Watjarri Woman, recently completed her third installment of Youth Parliament, playing a role in the KGI team’s bill passing through 29 votes to 1.
The bill sought to add compulsory First Nations education into the Victorian school curriculum, an issue close to the four young Indigenous Victorian’s hearts.
“I remember being in primary school and they showed us the Rabbit Proof Fence, but that was it,” Chloe said.
“That was all our education. It was just like, here is a movie, watch it, and that is all we got taught.
“We learned more in school about Chinese or European settlement, but not much about Indigenous culture or how Australia was settled.”
After first attending Youth Parliament through a camp in 2019, the past two years, Chloe has logged on virtually for in-depth sessions about parliament’s customs, history, and traditions and how it sits, and bills are passed.
Finally, in 2021, Chloe and her KGI team had an opportunity to debate, albeit virtually.
“Our team this year was absolutely awesome,” Chloe said.
“We spent a lot of late nights writing speeches and making sure we were all OK and good to go for our debate. Once it started, we all had plenty to say.”
In the lead-up to the debate, the team of Chloe, Piper Knox, Colby McDonald and Abigail Valentine Rawlins organised a meeting with the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC), who had been working on passing a similar bill at a federal level.
NIEC supported the KGI team by backing their argument. That notion was voiced to the opposition as a critical part of the debate.
“The argument is being pushed at a national level, so we asked why it should not be included in our local state-based curriculum,” Chloe said.
“From there, we suggested that Indigenous education should be fun and engaging with music and dance and art for primary school age students.
“In secondary school, the curriculum should focus on Indigenous history, language and culture.”
Chloe said that having an all-Indigenous team of young people, representing their culture, and drawing off their own lived experiences at the Youth Parliament level was very powerful.
“It is really important that KGI and young Indigenous people are being heard at youth parliament. Especially considering we have only recently had the first Indigenous senator- Lydia Thorpe,” Chloe said.
“She is the first Indigenous person in state parliament… and it is 2021. It is a long time coming but quite an important thing to have.
“I think our team provides great insight as well for other teams who might not know a lot about Indigenous culture.”
Chloe recalled an instance at her first Youth Parliament camp where another speaker was using incorrect terminology when talking about Indigenous people.
“I was able to get a note to them before the floor opened, and they said they were so sorry. From there, it did not happen again. That is a really small thing that is important to creating change.”
Chloe’s KGI Journey
After being nominated by the Indigenous Liaison Officer at her school, Chloe first joined KGI as a 15-year-old Year Nine student.
Despite having never heard of the program prior, she says she instantly fell in love with it.
“I kept coming back,” she laughed.
“On my first camp, I made a group of friends that I am never going to forget. It makes me so proud to see them go on their journey and find their identity.
“I have seen so many find themselves. You can even see it within the camps. It is a safe place, and the leaders make it that, as does having people that are accepting around us and who can work around some sensitive issues.”
Chloe reflected on the way KGI also helped her find her own identity and empowered her to strive towards her own goal of owning a disability support service.
“I am a young person with a disability, having had scoliosis for all my life. I think it might help my clients feel more comfortable because I understand their point of view,” she explained.
“I can remember clearly on a REAL Camp, we laid out our ambitions and that was it for me. I have finished school now and am doing a Cert 4 in Community Service.
“I think I am slowly working towards my dream, and I am proud of that.”
With a successful test-taste of how a political career could look, Chloe also said it is a future she would consider. The 19-year-old has also been accepted for a Bachelor of Journalism. She can start in Melbourne next year, should she wish.
“The local ABC in Sale, if they need a young person to talk about something- they call me. I am considered a regular there,” Chloe joked.
“Although I do not really like the city, so we will see how I go.”
Whatever comes next for Chloe, she is proud of what has come first.