ALICE Fleetwood, a Year 12 student from Richmond River High School, has spent the first week of her school holiday in Sydney as a member of the YMCA Youth Parliament, a youth-led advocacy program that promotes youth leadership.
Kadina High School student Brendan Pearce was also there, as part of a committee investigating Family and Community Services
"I've put aside my (HSC) studies for a week," Alice admitted over the phone.
"I'm really passionate about the environment and renewable energy."
In the Youth Parliament, Alice was a member of the Committee for Environment and Heritage. On Tuesday, she presented a bill called the Coal Seam Gas Acquisition Bill 2012, for an Act to regulate CSG exploration, regarding land acquisition, environmental sustainability and compensation for landowners.
"It's truly inspiring," she told The Echo from Sydney, "to see that this youth parliament, made up of 110 representatives from 92 electorates around NSW, has been willing to consider the issue of coal seam gas.
"The bill passed with the overwhelming majority of youth members supporting it.
"It brought tears to my eyes. I was amazed at how well-informed these young people were.
"There were so many of them, there was not enough room for the 'aye' side to be seated!
"The bill is extremely relevant to my electorate of Lismore and I was proud to represent the views of my community.
"What's more, I was overwhelmed with hope in seeing that the youth of our entire state supported this bill, which regulates CSG exploration."
Alice, who is considering a future after school that has "something to do with environmental engineering or environmental law", also debated several other bills put by other youth "MPs".
These included bills about disability support housing, child safety, cycling integration, skilled migrants recognition, Aboriginal community funding, teacher professionalisation, youth homelessness and mentoring, euthanasia, and school hours flexibility.
Alice said: "The quality of debate and passion the youth leaders have shown... is evidence we are not just the leaders of tomorrow. We can also be the leaders of today."