Carlingford school commits to social justice

Making a difference: James Ruse Agricultural High School's social justice leaders, whose conference theme was "Leaving our legacy".Picture: Gene Ramirez

Making a difference: James Ruse Agricultural High School's social justice leaders, whose conference theme was "Leaving our legacy".Picture: Gene Ramirez

The social justice leaders at James Ruse Agricultural High School hope to see similar committees made compulsory in all NSW schools.

They hosted an inter-school social justice conference for 130 students on Tuesday with that end in mind.

Guest speakers included Emma Campbell, of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the Exodus Foundation chief executive Reverend Bill Crews and representatives of the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul.

They were joined on a Q&A panel by United Nations youth convener Tim Matthews and 2008 James Ruse graduate Jean-Marie Voon, who established non-profit organisation B. Inspiring to teach high school students leadership skills.

Upeka Nanayakkara, 16, said the committee sponsors a Tanzanian girl's education through the School of St Jude.

She said there were 3000 girls waiting for sponsorship on World Vision's website and more than 9000 schools across the country. "If each school in NSW or Australia sponsored one girl there would be so many children looked after," she said.

Aileen Lin, 16, said she found Pakistani education rights activist Malala Yousafzai's story the most inspiring. "She's the same age as us but we're able to go to school freely and some of us take that for granted while she's had to fight for it," she said. "Education is the key to erasing poverty. It's kind of a chain reaction. When she grows up that one girl can help educate a whole other class.''

Eklavya Wangoo, 16, said the school had supported Refugee Week by collecting non-perishable foods, TravelTen bus passes and other items for asylum-seekers.

They also put paper boats on the conference seats with facts about refugees.

"Over 90 per cent of boat arrivals are genuine refugees," Eklavya said.

"The number of refugees who were terrorists is zero. That's the one fact that really hits home in the end."

Stephanie Wu said Reverend Crews' advice to making a difference was to "just do it". "We tend intellectualise it or to think I should do this, or I'll do it tomorrow, and we don't," she said.

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