Five emerging leaders from the NRL Youth Advocate Program made their voices heard at NSW Parliament House on Monday during Children's Week Parliament.
Christina Tabone, Nazir Hammoud, Kathleen Sikuea, Sophie Akkari and Aris Georgoulopoulos were chosen to represent their electorates alongside 88 other high school students in years 9-11.
Each student gave a one-minute speech about an issue relevant to their area. The speeches were filmed and delivered to the young person's local MP.
NRL community officer Joe Galuvao said the event was perfect for the teenagers to showcase the skills and values taught in NRL Youth Advocate workshops.
"The main part of the Youth Advocate Program is giving opportunities for young people to lead and put the things they've learnt into action," said two-time NRL premiership winner Galuvao, who leads the program in NSW.
"They really loved the experience. Once they were there, they probably realised the significance of being there and speaking in front of Parliament.
"By attending this event, it gave them the confidence that being at events like this is important – especially when they want to drive change in their communities.
"For us, a big part of our Youth Advocate Program is for young people to identify issues that they see in the community and being able to be an advocate for change."
The NRL's youth quintet networked with expert partners like the Advocate for Young People and Children as well as students from all around the state.
"I'm very, very proud of the students," said Galuvao.
"Some of the messages I got back from them was they met kids from the country, from different walks of life and it gave them a really great appreciation."
To become eligible for the NRL Youth Advocate Program, students must have participated in one of the game's other social impact initiatives – In League In Harmony, the Pacific Youth Summit, School 2 Work or Voice Against Violence.
Almost 60 Youth Advocates have been inducted this year and Galuvao is pleased with their progress.
"The program has a big emphasis on youth engagement and youth-led events. All our gala days that we hold throughout the year, all our young people run that," Galuvao said.
"They do all the emceeing and the refereeing – we want to provide opportunities for young people to put those skills and values into practice.
"We want to provide young people opportunities like they had on Monday where they can engage with partners, engage in opportunities NSW Parliament.
"For us at the Youth Advocate Program, we really want out young people to have a voice. The confidence and the platform to be able to hear from them."
The NRL Youth Advocate Program is funded by the NSW Government's Youth Opportunities Grant.
2019 NRL Youth Advocates at NSW Parliament House
Christina Tabone, Doonside Technology High School – Blacktown electorate
Nazir Hammoud, Concord High School – Strathfield electorate
Kathleen Sikuea, CathWest Innovation College – Mt Druitt electorate
Sophie Akkari, Hills Grammar, electorate – Castle Hill electorate
Aris Georgoulopoulos, Canterbury Boys High School – Kogarah electorate