Premier’s spirit of democracy
Melbourne Girls’ College students Eirene Carajias and Scarlett Cuthbertson were two of 22 students who won a place last year in the inaugural Premier’s Spirit of Democracy (PSoD) Study Tour for students in Years 9, 10 and 11. The PSoD offered winning students and teacher chaperones the opportunity to take part in a two-week study tour in Greece to foster Civics and Citizenship education in Victorian Schools. On the cusp of the program’s public launch in March last year and only a couple of weeks from flying out, the tour had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. The tour was initially postponed and then cancelled, however, students recently received a certificate, a published compilation of the student essays and a selection of books on the origins of democracy, Greek history and works from contemporary Australian leaders in recognition of their achievement.
Eirene and Scarlett are to be congratulated for their involvement in the program as they had to undergo a rigorous selection process including the preparation of an 800 words personal reflection, short story, or expository essay drawing on classical Greek philosophers to take a stance on the premise: “Ancient democracy is often viewed as a system of government where the citizens of the city-state held the power” and to argue whether this an accurate observation of the democratic model in modern day Australia? Despite the missed opportunity to tour in Greece in 2020 both students have started their tertiary studies this year and continue to make their mark as active and informed citizens and future leaders.
I still remember sitting in Methods one day when Eirene told me about the chance to go on an educational trip to Greece for two weeks, called the Premier’s Spirit of Democracy. Sure enough, I completed my entry form online, including an essay. I loved researching Ancient Greece and Greek philosophers for my paper and I was ecstatic when I found out I’d been selected. As we couldn’t make it over to Greece, we were given a prize pack including many books on politics, philosophy and Greece to make up for it, which are keeping me busy during lockdown. I’m currently in my first year of a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne, which I’m finding interesting and hoping to tie into my politics and policy interests with time.
It was a very late school night, and as with every teenager I was doing the nightly scroll of my social media accounts before finally giving in to sleep. I bounced across a news article published by Neos Kosmos, Melbourne’s Greek newspaper, which I read keenly before spotting a small and subtle advertisement for the Premier’s Spirit of Democracy. A state government funded three-week trip to Greece to study philosophy and democracy, where our ticket was merely an essay submission; I don’t think I’ve ever been keener to increase my workload in my life. Scarlett and I were ecstatic to find out that not only were we both accepted, but our new Year 12 English teacher – Ms Nikolovska was to be one of our chaperones. It was a shame that we weren’t able to travel together because of the pandemic, but our achievements were recognised in a published book of the students’ essays. Scarlett and I are now facilitators with the United Nations Youth Victoria and will continue to fulfill our interests in politics and international affairs through their various forums. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Science, soon to major in Zoology, at The University of Melbourne.