Victoria government logo

Evolution of the student voice in public education

The 1970s were an important moment in student voice in Victoria. Since then, student voice has continued to evolve.

The idea that students should have a voice and say in their education is relatively new. The movement around student voice and participation started in the 1970s and continues today.


What should student participation in education look like? This was the question in the early 1970s for education specialists and academics. Schools like Swinburne Community School and Lynall Hall Community School took early action. They trialled ways to embed students in decision-making and increase participation.

At the same time, there were early attempts to set up student organisations led by students. This included the Victorian Secondary Students Union (VSSU), which formed in the early 1970s.

The early stages of student voice in Victorian schools were built on a broader global movement, which started with strikes in the United Kingdom in 1969. The first national school strike in Australia was held on 20 September 1972.


In the 1980s, the Victorian Ministry of Education produced a series of policy papers on student participation. The papers acknowledged the rights of students, using terms like participation and empowerment.

These papers led to a mandate in 1984 to put a student representative on all Victorian government school councils.

There was another attempt to form a student network, this time at the national level. The Australian Network of School Students (ANSS) was formed in the mid-1980s. Both ANSS and the earlier VSSU did not survive.

1990s to 2000s

The term student voice started to become more widly used in the 1990s.

The achievements of the previous three decades had a lasting impact.

A major outcome was the establishment of Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) in 2003. VicSRC is a peak organisation designed wholly to support and grow student voice.

Victoria is the only state in Australia with an independent entity created by students to be the voice for students at the highest levels of decision making in Victorian education.

VicSRC is ‘student run, student directed’.


Today, the evolution of the student voice continues, but the fundamental principle of genuine student inclusion is here to stay.

As Roger Holdsworth, a former teacher and academic who has been at the centre of discussions about student voice for many decades, says:

I think we no longer need to ask students, as we did for a while, ‘Do you want to keep an independent student organisation going?’ I think we’re solid enough that students now accept that that is the norm.

Jade, a year 12 student who has extensive experience with VicSRC, understands from first-hand experience why student voice matter:

Having a platform where students can be heard and have people advocate for them is really, really crucial to seeing positive change for students within the system that is for them.

As the VicSRC website declares: ‘We don't make change alone – join the roar of student voice!’

Learn more about the student voice and the role of the VicSRCExternal Link .

Reviewed 11 October 2022


Was this page helpful?