Review Blog

May 31 2009

Perspectives edited by Helen Sykes

cover image

Future Leaders
(Recommended 15+) A commitment to the leaders of tomorrow led Dr Helen Sykes to found the 'Future leaders' program. She has selected essays by ten prominent Australians and entrants in the 'Future leaders writing prize'. Their theme is 'democracy'. While we ponder social justice issues, we can also consider the writing styles of experienced communicators and those just starting to mature as authors. We are moved by fiction, swayed by informed argument, convinced by statistics and affected by compassion.
The choice of activists is impressive. They are highly articulate, knowledgeable and committed. Barry Jones opens the debate about Australian society at large in an article which is brimming with ideas and information. Among those who follow are Julian Burnside, who argues for 'A charter of rights' and Marcia Langton and Zane Ma Rhea, who urge that educational outcomes for indigenous children be improved. John Hartigan explores freedom of speech, Margaret Prior discusses the promotion of mental health among the young and medical student Anthony Khoo explains the tragic consequences of middle ear infection.
The 23 contributions by Year 11 and 12 students were undoubtedly chosen on merit but it is disappointing to note that only two of the young authors are young men. Fictional cameos touch on topics ranging from youth suicide to living with a disabled sibling. Non-fiction articles examine issues as varied as human rights in China and the use of solariums. Only two in this second group included end notes or bibliographies but their authors are still learning.
Some readers will be disconcerted by the placement of a brief introduction to the author at the end of each article instead of at the beginning. A glossary of technical terms would alleviate the need to keep reaching for a dictionary and a dramatic cover design might be more apt for a book which deals with confronting subject matter.
Perspectives is challenging and rewarding, thought-provoking and insightful. It will appeal to everyone who likes to grapple with contemporary issues. It can be obtained free from the Future leaders site.
Elizabeth Bor

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