Page 3123 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 October 2022

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opportunities for young people in my office, particularly young people from my electorate. The speech I am about to give you is from Isobel, a 16-year-old year 10 student from Wanniassa High, who my team has had the privilege of having worked in our office this week. She may have even contributed to our work on Dr Paterson’s motion on cardiovascular health. These are Isobel’s words about COVID-19 and the relationship with her education. She says:

COVID-19 hit Australia in March 2020, only a few weeks into the first term of school. At first, students weren’t worried. We had been through a major flu outbreak a few years earlier and we were more worried about getting our assignments done and going home at 3 pm. But, as the virus began to spread, we became more aware of what it could mean for us and our education.

When the announcement was made that students all over the ACT would be going into lockdown and it was unknown when we would return to school, I was in my year 8 history class learning about medieval Europe and, ironically, the bubonic plague outbreak. I remember my teacher stopping the lesson to talk about the news and what it would mean for us. Students in my class were asking questions: “When will we come back, Ms?” “When will all of our work be online?”, “What if we do not have access to the internet at home?” And our teacher had no definitive answers for us.

The school had assumed the lockdown would be coming, but, without the help from our government, they had not had the time to create a plan of action. Our government created a lot of confusion around how the lockdown would work by releasing information in snippets and not having a real plan. This meant our teachers could not reassure students and give them the support they needed when it felt like the world was starting to come undone.

On Monday, the week after that history lesson, we were all at home learning how to use Google calls, half the class sleeping in, and everyone, surprisingly, missed being at school. Throughout the lockdown, a lot of students around Australia struggled with wellbeing issues due to the unpredictable future, families being affected financially, a lack of support for their education, and taking on extra responsibilities while working from home by doing household chores and looking after family members.

My school, Wanniassa, took our mental health extremely seriously and was lucky enough to have the resources to help our community. We had year group meetings online to discuss our feelings and just talk with our friends and teachers. Our year coordinators made weekly calls to check in with students, and our student services office helped with any needs, including groceries, so families could help with their children’s education without the risk of starving.

Unfortunately, many schools could not offer this level of support and many students’ educations were compromised by stress and mental health issues. Mental health was not the only factor contributing to the decrease in attendance over online learning. Things such as the lack of structure, the distractions found at home, the uniformity of all the work being online, and the lack of motivation from teachers all played a part as well.

After two months of scraping through, it was announced that students would go back to school over a three-week period. Everyone thought that, once we were

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