In week 9, Nicholas and I submitted applications to win a position in the YMCA Junior Parliament camp held in the first week of the October school holidays. We had to answer a few basic questions, what we would like to bring up and debate at parliament, what issues are important to us and tell them a little about ourselves.

We were very surprised to hear 2 days later from Mum that we were both successful!

We left home bright and early on Wednesday the 2nd of October to be at Rostrevor College in Adelaide by 9am. Once we arrived, we had to sign in, go to the dorm rooms we were staying in and then choose 3 topics of interest that we would debate in Parliament – we chose the Education and Training Committee. Soon after we did some outside team building activities to get to know each other and learnt the basics of parliament etiquette. Later in the day we split into the groups we would be working with for the debating and wrote our bills to debate the following day. We learnt about public speaking which we both found beneficial as it’s not something we are comfortable with. Day one concluded with dinner and bedtime.
It had been a big first day!

The next morning, we were up at 6:45am and dressed in our formal attire ready for breakfast and to board our bus into the city to Parliament House. It was really exciting to be entering the building we have driven past so many times!

We were greeted by a security guard to enter the building and were guided to the House of Representatives chamber which is a green room. Once we were seated, we had an opening ceremony which explained the program of the day, the team debating order and the rules to follow, and then our bill began the first one of the day which was terrifying but also exciting! We both represented our team by speaking – debating why we should have free ELC in rural South Australian areas.

Our bill was eventually passed even though the other teams were opposing our bill. Once we had finished our speeches the nerves left and we could breath a sigh of relief, sit back and listen to the other teams debate their bills which was enjoyable as there seemed to be lots of arguing and yelling!!

After the third bill, we had a lunch break, team photos in the chamber and then straight back into debating the final 3 bills before boarding the bus back to Rostrevor. After dinner, we had the choice of watching a movie or going to a quiz night: we both went to the quiz night and unfortunately didn’t walk away with the win here! After a long day of debating and taking so much in, we were thankful to get to bed and rest up for our last day.

Friday morning, we packed up and had breakfast before doing another group activity of making group mementoes with our new friends and teammates. A quick break for morning tea and then we had a recreation session which included 4-way dodgeball, tennis, football and water balloon volleyball which ended up being a water balloon fight! We stopped for lunch and discussed what being a young leader and change-maker meant, we set personal goals and had a leadership session. Before long the parents began to arrive for the thank-you and wrap up which included an awards ceremony where certificates were handed out to all participants and a few special awards presented. Before we knew it, we had to grab our belongings, sign out and say goodbye to our new friends once we had exchanged details.

We both learnt so much about parliament, public speaking, leadership, trying something new, getting out of our comfort zones, making new friends in a completely different environment without knowing anyone at all and engaging with the YMCA leaders who were all amazing, caring, supportive and generous. Overall it was a beneficial experience for both of us and we would highly recommend anyone applying for it in the future. These camps give you the opportunity to go onto similar camps as you get older and expose you to more experiences and extend your knowledge and life skills.

Sophie & Nicholas Heinrich