Page 3124 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 October 2022

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back at school, everything would be relatively normal again. Yes, we would have to wear masks and, yes, social distancing became a thing, but we would be back at school in our regular classes again. But this was not the case. As students and teachers returned, the spread of COVID continued and created a lot of disruption in classes. We had a lot of combined classes and a lot of substitute teachers. Many of Australia’s older students from year 10 to year 12 felt that their educations were incomplete and would give them a disadvantage throughout their adult lives. This fear pressured them into working harder in their classes, causing burnout and the risk of failing their exams.

The biggest problem Australia faced after the lockdown was ‘school refusal’—the term used to describe students’ separation anxiety when they were forced to return to school. A large group of Australian students had adjusted to learning from home and preferred the comfort of a familiar environment away from their classmates. Their learning was further disrupted when families did not know how to help their kids and thought sending them to school would help them get over their anxieties, in turn making the experience harder for everyone involved.

I had one friend go through school refusal as she had mental health issues prior to the lockdown and, after the second lockdown in 2021, she dropped out and started home schooling. Although some students found it difficult to come back to school, most were very excited to return as they missed the social interactions that school provided. The teachers at Wanniassa were consistently reminding my year group that the social distance and separation from each other made us grow closer as a cohort.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unpredictable event, but students in the ACT felt neglected by our government when they could not provide us a reassuring plan to get through the pandemic. Our educations were disrupted and now disadvantaged to the people who graduated before COVID hit. Not only did we leave our academic futures in the hands of this government but we continue to trust you with representing us and we wish for you to be more responsible in making decisions that impact the education of future students.

Having Isobel in my office has convinced me that expanding the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds is a good idea.

Former Senator the Hon Kim Carr—tribute

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (6.38): I rise to recognise former senator the Hon. Kim Carr and his contribution to Australia during more than a quarter of a century in the Senate. I do so in a week when I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome, where Kim was awarded the Academy Medal, only the second politician to receive this honour in its 32-year history, with the other being Bob Hawke. The medal is awarded to:

… a person outside the fellowship who has, by sustained efforts in the public domain, significantly advanced the cause of science and technology in Australia or who has made a substantial contribution to the academy by means other than research.

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