Trafalgar turns to Geneva for model UN

Diplomats: Students turned globe leaders for a day at the Model UN at Trafalgar on Wednesday, May 31. Photographs supplied



WORLD leaders gathered far and wide to meet at Trafalgar Public Hall to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the globe today; well, at least students pretending to be world leaders did.

On Wednesday, May 31, United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) ran a Model United Nations alongside Trafalgar High School. Schools from all across Gippsland came to flex their debating skills and pass amendments for their elected countries.

Among the schools involved in the Model UN were Trafalgar High School, Nagle College Bairnsdale, Drouin Secondary College, Lavalla Catholic College, Leongatha Secondary College, Korumburra Secondary College and Kurnai College.

Trafalgar High School alone had 30 students participate and act as the Bahamas, Costa Rica, India, Mongolia, Philippines, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

Model UN helps students to develop public speaking, writing and research skills. In addition, they often provide the first entry point into international affairs and introduce students to the wide range of peace and security, human rights, development, sustainability and the rule of law issues that are on the UN agenda.

Acting as the small country in Central America – Costa Rica, Lena Blackshaw, Jess Pettifer and Ella Franke from Year 10 worked together to research their country’s profile, demographics, ideologies, economies, needs and goals to write speeches and amendments at the Model UN meeting.

Jess said, “It was a really good learning experience you get to see how it all plays out because you like, never really learn that much about this sort of thing before, so it was really interesting.”

When asked if they were good at debating, Lena laughed, saying, “I wouldn’t say debate, but I would say we’re pretty good at arguing.”

The three students learnt about sustainability, leadership, politics and teamwork, with Ella highlighting the improvement in her communication skills as well.

“We have gotten more debating skills because we haven’t really done debating, but we have grown more working as a team,” Ella said.

The trio had to think quickly on their feet as the discussion became heated, with rival countries throwing spanners in their works, having to think of solutions to issues on the spot when questioned.

“It’s also, like, about communication; you had to go around, talk to other countries and convince them to agree with you,” Lena reiterated.

The trio highly recommended Model UN for all students, as the event caters to all interests to grow academic skills sets in an engaging and lively way.

Trafalgar High School’s vice-principal Amanda McQualter said students started unsure, but as deliberation came around, students became more engaged.

“All groups were very nervous at the start, and it took them a bit to get rolling, but then they were right into it,” she said.

Trafalgar High School competed in the last local Model UN and was inspired to host one themselves.

“We are always looking for opportunities, particularly for accelerated students, where they can excel and make connections in their communities. This was a really good opportunity for that,” Ms McQualter said.

With the school’s interest in science and sustainability, their main reasoning behind Model UN participation, Ms McQualter said these types of learning experiences were meaningful.

“We are very much academically focused. We are also very interested in our female students being a part of it and don’t always get women in science. We would like to get more representation of women in science. You don’t really get to see girls in this type of thing,” she added.

As a component of Trafalgar High’s Select Entry Accelerated Learning Program (SEALP), students across the school could work in groups to represent a country at the model UN. The activity was almost entirely voluntary, with students working outside of class to research and prepare themselves to perform on a microcosm of a global arena. With students from as young as Year 7, the Year 9 debate team and other SEALP students in the United Nations action, no class time was available, so “they did all their pre-preparation in their own time”, Ms MQualter said.

Trafalgar High School is keen to rerun the event based on its huge success and learning outcomes.

The United Nations Association of Australia informs, inspires and engages all Australians regarding the work, goals and values of the United Nations to create a safer, fairer and more sustainable world.

Model UN is run all across Australia, with thousands of schools attending events multiple times a year.