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Organisations Come Together to Demand Voice for Young Australians

28 June 2016 at 11:52 am
Wendy Williams
Political leaders are being called on to ensure the voices of young Australians are heard in the new parliament. More than 60 organisations — including peak bodies, youth organisations, community groups, charities, trade unions, universities…

Wendy Williams | 28 June 2016 at 11:52 am


Organisations Come Together to Demand Voice for Young Australians
28 June 2016 at 11:52 am

Political leaders are being called on to ensure the voices of young Australians are heard in the new parliament.

University students in classroom

More than 60 organisations — including peak bodies, youth organisations, community groups, charities, trade unions, universities and advocacy groups —  have come together to demand urgent action in the days leading up to the 2 July poll.

The group, led by the national youth peak body, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, has sent an open letter to all front benchers, parties and crossbenchers in a bid to ensure the incoming government is ready to face the real and present challenges facing young Australians.

The open letter highlights the fact that while more than one in five Australians are aged between 12 to 25, and more than 10 per cent of all voters in this election will be aged under 25, young Australians currently have no formal voice in the policy­making processes of government.

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) chair Katie Acheson told Pro Bono Australia News that it was vital all parties are held to account about representing young people.

“It is really important that the government and all parties who are saying they are going to representing young people are held to account about whether they are actually talking to young people and actually representing the needs and issues that young people have,” Acheson said.

“What we’re seeing in this election is we haven’t really seen any particular party making a really strong stance about trying to talk to young people or win them over and to try to talk about their issues so it is really important for us to kind of just say, look it is time for the government to actually have a voice into parliament and all of these organisations said ‘yes we agree’.”

Acheson said young Australians need to have a voice in decisions that affect their future.

“It is really important that there is a structure in place that can feed into particularly the policy debate, because the government is making decisions on a regular basis about what is going to happen for all of Australia and how that is going to affect the future, it is really important that young people have a direct voice into that process and can impact on the decisions that are going to affect their lives,” Acheson said.

“So peak bodies like AYAC have the abilities to do that so they can bring young people to the table and make sure young people are heard, and also that when anybody is making a decision about their lives, they are considering all of the impact on all of young Australians not just the people who are in the room.

“I think particularly in this week where we see Brexit where such a huge amount of young people made a very strong point but the older generation were a bigger amount, and there has been a lot of discussion in the last couple of days about the importance of young people and their vote being heard, because really the future and the decisions that are being made, like Brexit, it is the young people’s future not the older generations.

“And you really need young people to be engaged in what is happening now because they are the ones that are going to paying for your pensions and healthcare and making sure that the country is still running and succeeding but what we are seeing now is young people’s issues are being ignored and as a result their living standards are decreasing and we are seeing that inequality increasing for young people, and that is not ok and it needs to stop now.”

The open letter highlighted the fact that while there were many challenges facing young Australians, such as unemployment and housing affordability, young people have the desire, energy and ideas to take up the challenge of finding solutions.

“Times are hard for young Australians,” the open letter read.

“They are likely to be both the first generation to have lower standards of living than their parents and the first to contribute more to government spending than receive from it.

“Youth unemployment and underemployment remain worryingly high. Our education system is failing to properly support and transition young people into the jobs of the future. Most young people are becoming locked out of the housing market or taking on more debt than ever before to own their own home. Unfairly, some young people have even less opportunities, just because of their background, location or identity. Many young people are experiencing severe disadvantage, poverty or homelessness — a tragedy in a rich country like ours.

“This amounts to a big problem for all Australians. In the years to come, we’ll rely on young people most to lead our communities, drive our economy and support our ageing population. If young people feel valued and connected to our country, we will all benefit.

“Young Australians want to be heard on many issues. They want to help solve the challenges they and their communities face. But the Australian Government currently supports no way to hear young people or engage or consult with them.

“This must change.”

The letter concludes by challenging all parties to make a commitment ahead of the election to ensure the voice of young people is heard through a national youth peak body such as AYAC, tasked with representing young Australians to government.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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