Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

My Future

My Future

Isla Beck

Year 6, New Lambton Public School

We were screaming down the highway, totally out of control, my parents were both yelling at each other and fighting over the wheel. We were rocking from side to side, the caravan fishtailing behind us. I dug my fingers into the car seat as we did a 180 degree turn. “This is it!” I thought. “This is how I'm going to die!” The car was on two wheels now, ready to flip, when we smashed into the guard rail. I checked myself over, no broken bones, no missing limbs, my parents were fine as well. I took in a deep breath that I knew wouldn't have happened if we'd flipped. It was this moment that made me realise what was important to me - the future, my future.

When I think about my future it looks something like this; I go to high school, I develop  my soccer skills so that I can play at a high level, I  go to university to study to be a lawyer, I fall in love and start a family. I am very lucky that I live in a country where all this is possible. In some countries, Pakistan for example, girls are not allowed to drive automobiles, attend school or be educated in any way. Not only can I go to school but, I also live in an age where girls can do whatever they want as a career. Girls can become doctors, lawyers, engineers, politicians. If I had lived in Australia in the 1800s, I would not be allowed to vote or own land. I wouldn't have been permitted into university and I certainly couldn't become a doctor or a politician. 

Although boy/girl crushes are still a new thing at my age and marriage is a long, long way ahead in my future, I am lucky to have the freedom to fall in love with and marry whomever I choose. Some girls are not so lucky. Many girls, especially Muslim girls, have marriages arranged for them. Marriage in these cultures is a contract between the parents of the engaged. Girls are promised from a very young age, to a man who may be many years older and who may already have a wife or wives. I am lucky that my fate will be decided by me and me alone.

A typical Saturday morning for me involves me getting out of my cosy bed, having a hot shower while I wait for my dad to cook me a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs or fruit salad. Then I spend a frustrating 20 minutes deciding what to wear for the day, and then spend another 40 minutes deciding whether I should ride my bike, go for a swim at the beach or see a movie with friends. Many children do not have lives like this. Some live-in war-torn countries like Syria, where their home has been bombed and they now live in refugee camps, eating rice donated by foreign aid programs and playing in the dust with the other refugee children whilst they share their gruesome stories of how they came to be in the refugee camp. In East Timor, families are so poor that they endure a hungry season every year, where they eat nothing but tree bark boiled in soup. The clothes they wear are the ones I donate when they get too small or lose a button. Kids in these situations spend their days helping their parents with basic survival, not asking their parents for money to see a movie.

I have a future, a very bright future, full of possibility and privilege, full of choice. So where is my family going on our next holiday? Dad wants to go back to roughing it in a tent. Mum applied for passports for all of us and is looking at overseas travel. Me - I'd just like to stay home. I may not have a say in this matter, not until I'm 18 at least, but my future is my choice. My choice of university, career, partner and life path. And although it might sound selfish to only think of my future, it is important to me because I'd really like to work to make the futures of all children brighter.