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Our Youth Should Have A Voice!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hi everyone. Something a bit different for this blog entry and I need your help; have a read then jump on my official Facebook page and answer the question there or leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

Let me know if you think I’m barking totally up the wrong tree or if this is something you might feel comfortable supporting?  Appreciate you feedback.....

Our Youth Should Have A Voice

 ‘This is a great day for Australia’ the presenter’s voice boomed out through the speakers across the 10,000 people gathered on the Opera House steps and through televisions into living rooms of millions across Australia.  

Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister (PM), took his place in front of the microphone and started by acknowledging the dignitaries present, myself included, or ‘Australia’s newest hero’ as he called me. He went on in his speech to use phrases such as....

“You might be a little wobbly on your feet right now, but in the eyes of all Australians you stand tall.”

“At 16 you are a hero to all young Australians and also a hero to all Australians”. And he finished with..... “you do our nation proud”.   

Well firstly, as I pointed out on the day when I was handed the microphone after the PM, although his words were extremely humbling, there is no way in the slightest that I considered myself a hero (sorry to spoil any romantic ideas about hidden super-powers, but I’m really very ordinary!).

Secondly I’d like to point out that although I might have ‘made the nation proud’ and might be ‘standing tall in the eyes of Australians’ that very same nation and those very same Australians didn’t and still don’t recognize me as an equal member of our nation. 

As a democracy Australia prides itself in giving everyone a voice in their community - the right to vote. Well I might have been ‘Australia’s newest hero’ but I didn’t and still don’t have that basic right. More recently, I was honoured with the title of 2011 Young Australian of the Year (the speech given by current PM Julia Gillard was very similar to her predecessor’s speech).  The title came with an amazing opportunity to be a voice for young people, yet when it comes to that basic right given to everyone in a democracy – the right to vote - my voice was and has been silenced. I never got an opportunity to vote on who exactly it would be making those speeches!      

 

Being 16 at the time and 17 now, I’m still not considered old enough to be able to vote. Until I reach that magic number of 18, my country doesn’t recognize me as being responsible enough to have that right. Call me over sensitive and a bit of a drama queen, but I can’t help but feel insulted. I spend huge amounts of my spare time supporting and using that ‘voice’ to share my story with kids, to support charities and I’m even an ambassador for Queensland Tourism. Yet I’m not given that basic right that Australians pride ourselves in giving to everyone. I feel like one of my brother’s socks, pushed under his bed out of sight and out of mind – silenced.      

And I’d like to point out that there are young Australians and teenagers often completely unheard of or unacknowledged out there doing far, far more than I do to contribute to their respective communities and the nation.      

But all of that aside as a normal 16 or 17 year old, I sometimes wonder how society expects us teenagers to be responsible citizens making a contribution to our community, when we’re not given the right to have a voice in that community. It’s a shame but many people do hold the view that young people are irresponsible. You only have to read the opinion section of any newspaper to see this. I’d be willing to bet that you won’t find a paper without at least one letter to the editor complaining about the behaviour of ‘young people these days’!  

I have a friend who tells a story about the lady living next door to her. The day my teenage friend moved in to their new house with her teenage siblings, the lady came around and knocked on their door, like many neighbours would, expecting to receive a welcome from the neighbour. Except this particular lady had her heart set on giving my friend a stern lecture about any future bad behaviour. Well my friend is the sort of person who wouldn’t put a toe out of line, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but the lady had no intention of giving her the benefit of the doubt. As the lady said.....‘teenagers start fires!’       

Well isn’t it pretty obvious that by giving someone a voice, a sense of importance and responsibility, then isn’t that person going to be more responsible?

And that leads me to the thing that I feel most strongly about. We teenagers are Australia’s future. It’s us that will have to live with the decisions made by the older generation. A great example of this is climate change, an issue that needs to be acted on now, but the effects of which won’t really be felt for some time. It is young people who will potentially suffer the effects of climate change.

We might be our future, we might have achieved things that make our nation proud, but when it comes to the most basic right or freedom of a democracy, we’ve been forgotten in the same way that women and indigenous Australians were once overlooked. In the same way and by the same reasoning that not so long ago saw so many denied the right to vote because of gender or heritage.

‘Young Australians’ are also now being overlooked. Our crime?..... a number, our age!  

I wonder if my country’s former PM realised that in the same moment that he declared me ‘Australia’s newest hero’ that his country’s democratic system was silently, yet overwhelmingly telling me that I was insignificant, without a political voice. That I was not worthy of the right to vote. It really would be a great day for Australia if young people were given that basic democratic right, the right to vote.  Even the suggestion of making it non-compulsory for 16-18 year olds – but just give us the opportunity!

Should The Voting Age Be Lowered to 16?

16 and 17 year olds are recognised as being meaningful members of their community’s through their ability to work full time, pay tax, leave school and home, drive with supervision, get married, have consensual sex, become parents and be tried as an adult in a court of law.

Yet 16 and 17 year olds aren’t provided with the opportunity to vote. 

I want to hear your thoughts on whether it would better our democratic system by having 16 and 17 year olds take part in voting? Whether young people should have a say in the current issues that will affect their future and whether young people might become more involved in political and other issues if they were actually given a chance to become involved?

Question;

Should the voting age in Australia be lowered?

YES - the voting age should be lowered to 16

NO - the voting age should be left at 18

 

Thanks

Jess 

 


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