From 17 to 20 January this year over 50 young people from across Australia and New Zealand gathered in Melbourne at the Edmund Rice Centre Amberley for the annual Edmund Rice Education Australia Student Leaders’ Conference. The participants were drawn from schools governed by EREA as well as EREA Associate Schools.
Students participated in prayer and mediative experiences, including walking the Labyrinth at the Retreat Centre, created videos about the substance of everyday leadership, and developed a personal Charter for Leadership that sets out the vision they have for their time as leaders. The young women and men, who had been chosen by their school communities, also reflected on the life and example of Jesus, the papal encyclical Laudato Si’ and how they might respond as leaders.
Participants commented that the conference gave them an “incredible insight on the meaning of leadership not only within our college but also our extended community.” Students were also struck by the role that each one of them is playing in building a better world for all: “God's plan for me is only one tiny strand of silk in an entire spider web. My tiny strand adds a little bit of meaning to the world however we need to continue to communicate and work as a whole to create a world of peace, equality and justice.”
The EREA Student Leaders Conference was such a wonderful opportunity to meet and engage with like-minded individuals throughout Australia and New Zealand who each shared the same qualities and passion for leadership. It was incredibly rewarding being surrounded with driven, enthusiastic and confident people in a comfortable environment where everyone had the chance to speak, share ideas and be themselves. The program certainly allowed us to connect with every person involved and contribute equally to discussions. The amount of freedom given to us was fantastic as it gave us the chance to spend time with others and get to know them further, resulting in close friendships being made. (School Captain, Tasmania)
The conference enabled me to improve my leadership, team building and reflection skills in two ways:
1. Being given a chance to reach out to like-minded students and listen to their ideas and initiatives that I may be able to take back to my own school community.
2. Allowing myself to have time for reflection which helps me to relax and refocus on my goals as a leader and provide a more clear vision of the development of myself as well as my ambitions.
The whole thought of being sent on a plane to an unfamiliar destination with people you don't know seemed absolutely daunting. However I have learnt that this conference is similar to the journey of life, you may have no idea what you want to do in life, who you will associate with in the future and where life will take you. However this experience enlightened me to stop and take one step at a time, as God's plan for me is only one tiny strand of silk in an entire spider web. My tiny strand adds a little bit of meaning to the world however we need to continue to communicate and work as a whole to create a world of peace, equality and justice. (School Captain, NSW)
For me, this experience emphasized the importance of the touchstones in an Edmund Rice community. It was an amazement to discover how large the EREA network is, as well as understanding other similar schools. The increased opportunity to mingle and talk to other student leaders was a shock, as well as a blessing. From this experience, I have gained many mates that I can confidently contact throughout the year, openly discussing a wide range of topics, not just school issues. (School Captain, Western Australia)
The conference gave us incredible insight on the meaning of leadership not only within our college but also our extended community. The opportunity to meet fellow captains and form new friendships was also fantastic. Overall the experience was unlike any other in the past and we are very grateful to have attended.(School Captain, Queensland)
We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia as the traditional owners and custodians of the land of our schools. We are inspired and nurtured by their wisdom, spirituality and experience. We commit ourselves to actively
work alongside them for reconciliation and justice. We pay our respects to the Elders; past, present and future. As we take our next step we remember the first footsteps taken on this sacred land.