A student from Berwick Lodge Primary School proclaimed “this is going to be the best day of my life!” Another student from St Justin's Primary School in Wheelers Hill gasped with excitement telling her friend to “look how many people there are!” as the 4,300 students from 300 schools descended on the Melbourne Convention Centre.
An outstanding line-up of speakers included Wildlife and Conservation Advocate Bindi Irwin, Australian children’s author Andy Griffiths, Paralympian Jesse Gallagher and Organ Donation Advocate Coen Ashton.
Bindi Irwin was welcomed with an overwhelming applause as she burst onto the stage full of enthusiasm. Her energetic speech urged others to “follow their passion and be leaders” in their chosen field. For Irwin, that meant to be a “wild life warrior, by protecting wild life and wild places and to teach people about conservation for generations to come” like her father Steve Irwin.
She happily answered questions and showed video footage from a recent crocodile research trip. Wise beyond her 16 years, she referenced a John F. Kennedy quote explaining "leadership and learning are indispensable to each other" in front of a packed auditorium.
Another highlight of the day was Andy Griffiths, one of Australia's most popular children's authors. I reflected on my first introduction to his books, when an emergency teacher began reading ‘The Day My Bum went Psycho’ to my unsuspecting Year 7 class. As the class rolled around in hysterics, I couldn’t believe books like these were allowed to be written, let alone read in schools by teachers!
Griffiths attributed the success of his stories as they are “everyday situations, the insignificant… with James Bond action through it.” Andy told Australian Teacher Magazine that to assist buddying writers, teachers can “encourage students to write for five minutes a day, non-stop, using a cheap note book or using the sentence starter, ‘I remember…’” to create a flow of writing.
Little River Primary school students Deegan and Max said the best part of the day was meeting Andy Griffths at his book signing. They said the ‘Bad Book’ was their favourite and they enjoyed reading his books “during class and at any chance” they got.
Christina Woods said “eight house captains and four school captains” attend each year from James Cook Primary School in Endeavour Hills. Students Jitu and Nehare, said they loved listening to “inspirational people who are passionate” and liked how they could “share their day with so many others.”
Trinity Grammar School in Kew sent a large contingent, with 78 grade six students in attendance. Jon Knight said “the school has been sending their students for more than six years as it formed part of their pathways program which covers initiatives and leadership opportunities before the students commence senior school”.
Large inflatable beach balls bounced around the auditorium and dance crew ‘K-Star’ performed as the audience eagerly awaited the next speakers.
Paralympian Jesse Gallagher and Coen Ashton were the concluding speakers who had both overcome major health adversities. Gallagher, a legally blind athlete shared her stories of participating in the Paralympic Games. Ashton jet skied the 2000km Murray River twice, to raise awareness of organ and tissue donation and signed an additional 1000 names to the Donor Register along the way.
Students relished in the opportunities the day presented them and gained a greater insight on what it means to ‘lead well’.