8 Newsboys Foundation 125 Years “It’s a running joke,” Margaret Tran laughs. “People are, like, make sure you go back and be the Prime Minister! It’s been going on since Year 9, but I still hear it – in fact, even my dentistry professors say it!” It’s understandable that even the Bendigo academics teaching Margaret Tran to be a dentist have a sense that she might be destined for bigger things than a career peering into other people’s mouths. Margaret has been a dynamo of student advocacy, environmental campaigns and positive activism for years – and she’s only 19 years old. This is a woman who, as a 15-year-old at Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, was on the Victorian Student Representative Council, regularly sitting with teachers, principals and students from across the state, as well as Parliamentary officials and even Ministers. “I was in Year 10, meeting with the Minister for Education and the Minister for Youth,” she recalled. “I was organising conferences and camps, and was one of 15 representatives, advocating for things like students being able to sit on school councils, which had always been adults only, as well as pushing for more and better anti-bullying policies, and better environmental sustainability within schools.” In 2014, Margaret was recognised for her tireless work, winning the Newsboys Foundation Youth Leadership Award and a cheque for $5,000. It won’t surprise you to know she put that prize money to good use. In fact, the Newsboys award literally gave her a new international perspective. “I spent about $3,000 on an expedition to North India with the school,” she said. “We hiked in the Himalayas and then worked on a residential project in a really poor part of India. There was a family with about 16 people all living in a small house, along with goats, sheep, dogs and cats, and we built guttering for the house and an incinerator, so they could better get rid of waste.” The daughter of Vietnamese migrants, Margaret put $1,000 of the remaining money towards her education fees, to help her parents, and then spent the remaining $1,000 finishing off an environmental booklet showcasing organisations that could help schools become more sustainable, and methods for schools to do so. The booklet was sent to schools across the state and was available on the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) website. It would be reasonable to assume Margaret’s destiny is in politics or some kind of advocacy, but she said her wider family’s involvement in health professions and her work experience in Year 10, spending time at an orthodontist clinic, opened her eyes to how vital dentistry can be to peoples’ lives. “It’s not just about cleaning teeth or putting braces on people,” she said. “It’s more about changing someone’s life style or their self-esteem. You can really help them, as well as maintaining general health and pointing out diseases.” So, her future is in teeth, not advocacy? Well, actually… “I am still involved with the VicSRC and the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria,” she admitted. “I’m still advocating for students‘ rights and, actually, I think I will always be involved in some kind of advocacy. I do aspire to become a board member of the Australian Dental Association, and I’d like to join some boards in the dentistry field.” In other words, don’t throw away your ‘Vote 1: Margaret Tran’ badges and bumper stickers just yet. Newsboys Foundation grants have supported the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) since 2015. Supported activities include the VicSRC Annual Congress and the VicSRC Student Voice Awards, including the Newsboys Foundation Youth Leadership Award, and the Leadership Award Alumni Group. Visit: vicsrc.org.au Meet the young leader Margaret Tran, the 2014 Newsboys Foundation Youth Leadership Award recipient, has packed more into her 19 years than many people manage in an entire lifetime