Students 'Shift the Paradigm' at Fraser Coast's first TEDxYouth event


​Sparking discussions on topics important to our young people ... the nine TEDxYouth Speakers from St Mary's College, Maryborough.

For most students, the final months of the year are focused on studying and organising celebrations or holiday catchups with their buddies. 

But for nine students at St Mary’s College, Maryborough, these final days of the year also saw them immersed preparing for the Fraser Coast’s Region’s first TEDxYouth@SMCMBH event. 
A spin-off from the popular TED talks, TEDxYouth are independently organised, local TED-like events that solely feature presentations from our young people.  

Under the stage lights at the Brolga Theatre and Convention Centre in Maryborough, the nine College students from Years 7 to 12 sparked discussions from rethinking commercial fishing, raising awareness of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), becoming more inclusive of those with autism, to increasing student engagement in the classroom.  

The eye-opening and relevant talks were under the theme of ‘Shifting the Paradigm’, a topic teacher and event initiator Seci Tuiwai said, “was chosen by the students as they wanted to inspire their peers to participate in making an impact, starting at a local level while being globally relevant”.  

“After I had been involved in TEDx events overseas and knew how beneficial they were not only to students but also in terms of community collaboration, I decided to secure a license and have our English, Humanities and Art Faculty host and give a voice to the aspiring economists at St Mary’s College,” Mr Tuiwai said.  

“The night was even more successful than I had hoped for – our students definitely represented the College proudly, uplifting the souls and energy around them to affect and be the change in our small and humble community.” 

Youth speaker Ava Wilchek gave an emotional talk on a disorder she feels ​needs more awareness in the community called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), after she had a close experience.  

“Recently, NPD had a very impactful influence on my life when someone close to me was diagnosed with NPD,” Ava said.  

“As I began to look into the diagnosis, I realised it was not recognised as well as other personality disorders, and for something that affects more people than we tend to give credit for, it surprised me!” 

After three months of research and preparations, Ava said she is proud that she’s been able to inform the community on a topic she’s passionate about.  

“The process of preparing for my talk was exhilarating – I knew that potentially I could change someone’s perspective, even if it was just one person, I would have achieved what I set out to do,” she said.  

“Often I feel youth are seen to be inferior. But I tend to think of age as not just a number, it’s what you have done with your time. A platform like our TEDxYouth@SMCMBH is a great opportunity to convey the ideas and voices of youth effectively.”  

Skyla Birch who spoke on the topic of unethical commercial fishing and its impact on the environment, said she was grateful for a platform that she feels is “extremely important for youth in society”.  

“TEDxYouth allows students to have an opinion and raise awareness for things they believe need to be addressed,” Skyla said. 
“From participating in our TEDxYouth@SMCMBH I have learnt many public speaking tools and have gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I was able to raise awareness for something that I was passionate about, which made me feel like I was making a difference.” 

Inspired by her brother who has autism, Youth Speaker Laura Davies said she decided to talk about this disability to help people “be more inclusive and welcoming to those with autism, because everyone needs friends”.  

“My favourite reaction was from one of my classmates. He told his PC teacher he loved that someone cared about those with autism like himself, that he feels alone sometimes too, and that he also hopes more people would welcome and just be nice to them like I have done,” Laura said. 

“This platform is important for the youth of today because it is a safe environment to express your ideas, thoughts and passions.” 
With more than 75 local community members in the audience, Event Production Manager and Technology Lead and eLearning Coordinator at the College Kirsty Patterson said, “it has been a great opportunity to educate others about what the students are passionate about”.  

“The audience reactions were amazing; they couldn’t believe how well the students spoke. There were even some tears!” 

Ms Patterson said all students involved were able to step out of their comfort zones, whether it was as a speaker or as event help … “it was definitely a joint effort by many”.  

“We had a lot of helpers – nine student speakers, eight students helping out with things from running the presentations, being our MC’s, audience sign-ins, microphone changes, shadowing the film crew, as well as our College hospitality class providing refreshments,” Ms Patterson said. 

“Thanks also to the Brolga Theatre staff who help to record the night, the Maryborough Toastmaster Club who gave valuable feedback to the students, as well as the audience who were completely open to listening to what our Youth wanted to share.” 

“The students could see how much planning went into providing an event like this and they were very appreciative.” 

For the full line up and profiles of the St Mary’s College Youth Speakers visit TEDxYouth@SMCMBHH | TED. Videos of their talks will be shared in the near future via this page.  ​

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