Standing up for Canberra

The Chronicle: Engaging our Youth

Did you know only 42 percent of 18-29 year old Australians believe democracy is preferable to any other kind of government?

And 400,000 19-24 year olds didn’t enrol to vote in the 2013 Federal election?

Since I’ve been elected I’ve become increasingly concerned about the level of disengagement of young Australians in politics and the democratic process. 

Because you cannot realise change without being engaged. You cannot improve lives without being engaged. You cannot make a difference without being engaged. And you can’t complain if you aren’t prepared to have your say.

So, rather than speculating on the reasons why, last week I sought the views of young Canberrans in a pilot youth forum at St Mary MacKillop College.

Eight enthusiastic Year 11 and 12 St Mary MacKillop, Daramalan and Narrabundah College students took part in the pilot, where they discussed a range of issues including “On their best day our politicians are…”  and “On its best day our parliament is…” The pilot was all about listening to the students and the discussion was considered, passionate and enlightening.

The students highlighted the need for greater education in schools on politics, democracy and government. Sure, most schools study Civics in the curriculum, but this was seen as too early in a student’s development and lacking practical application. So should Civics be incorporated into the senior curriculum, and teach students how to enrol to vote and the responsibility that comes with it? And, most importantly, the value of our precious democracy?

Given the success of the pilot – and thank you to the principals, educators, staff and students who made it possible – I will conduct more youth forums across Canberra schools in 2015.

Because it’s vitally important young Australians, the future leaders of our country, are engaged in our democratic process, so they can shape our nation into a place they are proud to call home.