Year 10 Student, Woodenbong Central School, NSW

From the 14-17 of August, I participated, along with 31 other students from around Australia (four people from each state, who I now consider as friends), in the Every Voice Counts student forum. The aim of the forum was to educate us on our rights and responsibilities as responsible citizens. It was my task, privilege and honour to represent my State, school and community.

The adventure began at Brisbane Airport, where I met the four Queensland students and Mrs Stevens, the chaperone for NSW and QLD. We flew direct to Canberra, and our accommodation was at University House, a residential complex at the Australian National University.

The first day was spent exploring New Parliament house and Old Parliament House. We were presented with our 'Certificate of Participation' by the then Minister for Education, Science and Training, Mrs Julie Bishop. We also had an opportunity to meet out local representatives in Parliament. We attended Question Time in the House of Representatives, a must-see for all.

The next two days included countless inspirational and motivational speeches that challenged each and every one of us. We participated in loads of fun, hands-on activities at the National Archives and the National Museum. The National Archives was nothing like I had anticipated, exploring Australian History in a fun and accessible way all could enjoy.

Then came that saddest part: bidding farewell to our new-found friends. Perhaps we had been in the midst of a future Prime Minister, research scientist or outstanding school teacher!

Every Voice Counts was an invaluable experience and I wouldn't have missed it for anything! I made so many new friends, each of us with different backgrounds and opinions. The talks either reinforced my existing opinions on a whole range of today's issues, or challenged me to think about the basis and facts that my opinions were built on.

The Every Voice Counts organising team were amazing: always friendly, always encouraging, and always willing to explain something if you weren't sure, or had no idea at all!

I strongly recommend my peers to apply for events such as Every Voice Counts. It doesn't matter where you come from: a small rural Government Central School like mine, or a prestigious private school in the middle of Sydney. Our society needs you to voice your opinion, and to respectfully listen to the opinions of others. That is one of the things that make our democracy great!!