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Labor promises to give young Australians a voice

7 May 2019 at 4:15 pm
Luke Michael
Community groups have lauded Labor’s election pledge to appoint a minister for young people and revive funding for a national youth peak body.

Luke Michael | 7 May 2019 at 4:15 pm


Labor promises to give young Australians a voice
7 May 2019 at 4:15 pm

Community groups have lauded Labor’s election pledge to appoint a minister for young people and revive funding for a national youth peak body.

Labor MP Terri Butler announced on Tuesday that the ALP would provide $600,000 each year for the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) and ensure young people were represented in government if it wins the upcoming election.

There has been no federal minister for young people since 2013, while AYAC – which was formed in 2002 ­– was defunded in the 2014 federal budget under prime minister Tony Abbott.

The AYAC has struggled to survive in recent years and owes its continuing existence largely to the support of the state youth councils.

AYAC chair Katie Acheson said she was ecstatic young people finally had clear leadership from one of the major parties to bring their issues into focus.

“The future should be fair for young Australians. Political inaction on critical issues means that young people haven’t had a fighting chance,” Acheson said.

“Making sure young people have an independent voice like AYAC and putting a minister for young people into cabinet is a great first step to solving the complex challenges facing young people here and now.”

Youth advocates say a combination of debt, joblessness, globalisation, demographics and rising house prices is hurting young people’s incomes and life prospects.

Research has shown trust between young Australians and the political system has got worse, with 85 per cent of young people aged 18 to 29 not believing politicians are acting in their best interests, compared to 80 per cent in 2016.

“This announcement demonstrates a willingness to work with young people and will help repair their trust and confidence in government and political systems,” Acheson said.

Paul Turner, Youth Affairs Council Victoria’s (YACVic) caretaker CEO, told Pro Bono News that youth peaks have been campaigning for action on this issue for years.   

He said since there had been a sense of alienation from young people regarding federal politics in recent times, anything which helped reverse that trend was a good thing.

“We want to make sure that any policy being decided at federal level has a youth lens applied to it which just doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment,” Turner said.

“We’re very keen to see a youth policy full stop at federal level and this is the first step towards that.”

YACVic’s Thomas Feng said youth unemployment, housing affordability and climate change were key areas for a minister for young people to prioritise action on.

Children from more than 55 Australian cities and towns took part in School Strike 4 Climate protests earlier this year, and Feng said having a dedicated youth minister would only further the ability for young Australians to take community action.

“I think having a minister for young people would also mean we start to really see more initiatives to engage young people with policy making and change making,” Feng told Pro Bono News.

The Morrison government has not indicated it will appoint a minister for young people nor pledged to restore funding for AYAC, but Feng said he hoped the government would reconsider its decision in light of Labor’s announcement.

When former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked in question time last year whether the government would consider appointing a minister for young people, he replied cabinet was already representing young Australians.

“I am honoured to lead a thoroughly youthful ministry – some of us more young at heart than young in years, but all of us thoroughly committed to delivering great opportunities for young Australians,” Turnbull said.

“Of course, everything we are doing is designed to deliver greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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