This year marks the Presbyterian and Methodist Schools Association’s (PMSA) inaugural Annual Australian Leadership Lecture, an initiative designed to promote thought and debate among our emerging leaders on important social issues.

Year 12 students from the four PMSA schools came together to hear from guest speaker Noel Pearson – an inspirational Aboriginal leader, land rights activist, Chairman of Good to Great Schools Australia, Advisor for the Cape York Partnership, and history and law graduate.

Noel spoke about what it means to be Australian and what our future identity could be. He described a future where Australia has a clear identity based on a blend of ancient Indigenous Australia, Anglo-Saxon Australia and Multi-Cultural Australia.

“Each and every one of us has an obligation to each other to not follow the ways of the past and to take our future on a new path, a path that uplifts and values [our First Nations] for who they are, appreciates their intelligence, strength and inner beauty, and most importantly empowers them to live a life where they can [take their rightful place in the country], without judgement and they feel supported to be themselves, not change to be anyone different,” Noel said.

Somerville House School Captain Dinethra Epa felt inspired by Mr Pearson’s passion for creating change. She expressed her hope for an Australia where people are proud of their culture and its history.

“I hope for an Australia where everyone is proud of their background and don’t feel that they need to hide it or try to be someone they're not.”

School Captains from the other PMSA schools reflected on their takeaways from the lecture:

I didn't realise how marginalised [Indigenous Australians] still were. Hearing it from Noel today was a huge eye-opener for me in terms of the disadvantages they face in the educational system and just everyday life.

Brisbane Boys College Vice-Captain Matthew Bennett

My biggest takeaway from Mr Pearson’s lecture was that sadly, a lot of the time we are fighting 21st-century issues with a 19th-century mindset, so to be able to fight these issues, we need to move our mindset into the 21st-century to truly create change.

Clayfield College School Captain Claudia Sutherland

This evening was a great opportunity for students throughout the PMSA to come together and understand a bit more about the challenges that Indigenous Australians still face today and the progress that we can make as young people.

I want to thank Mr Pearson very much for his contribution to the fight for Indigenous recognition. It was so fascinating to learn about his own experiences and the steps that we can take as individuals with our responsibility to build a greater Australia.

Sunshine Coast Grammar School Captain Aydan Rusev

In future years, the lectures will continue to feature remarkable Australian’s who can inspire discussions about Australia’s national identity, gender equality and the environmental impact we are making on our earth.

Watch Noel Pearson's full lecture or read his speech in full. You can also listen to Noel’s interview on 4BC Breakfast radio.