This week is National Youth Week — a whole week built for celebrating the brilliant achievements of young people across the country. Hurrah!
To celebrate a glorious week of young people in the spotlight (although if it was up to us, it would be every week), I had a chat with the Chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Katie Acheson, about how young people are represented at the political level, which has been a bit of a hot topic in the last while.
Everyone’s been chatting about young people’s representation in parliament like it’s the new Harambe (rest his beautiful soul) and recently the build up came to a head when the Federal Member for Mayo, the hon. Rebekha Sharkie MP asked the Prime Minister during question time why young people aren’t fairly represented in parliament. Here’s how it went down:
So basically the PM’s take is along the lines of: look, sure, we’re mostly in our 60s but our party has a very strong child-like sense of wonder, so we’re basically young people.
When I spoke with Katie Acheson about this she didn’t seem to think that was much of an answer; she thinks our politicians should be representative of the whole country, not just particular demographics. During our conversation she let me know:
“Currently in Australia we don’t have a minister for young people, and we also don’t have [many] members of parliament who are young people themselves, so they would have at least that learned experience.”
For some, the idea of having politicians involved in the political system without decades of lived experience feels like a pretty radical idea, so I asked Katie why young people not being represented is such an issue:
“It’s a problem because people who aren’t young themselves aren’t talking to young people and aren’t focusing on or even aware of what’s going on for young people in Australia. They are the ones making the decisions. They’re supposed to represent us all… there’s no dialogue that’s going to reflect the young people of Australia today.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as important conversations around youth participation in parliament are starting to emerge… Katie let me know that during the last week we saw more discussion on these issues than we had during the last 3 to 4 years, so dry your eyes fellow young peeps, good things may be on the horizon.
For Katie, real democracy means that the members of parliament reflect its people: “nearly 20% of the Australian population is young people, so you would hope 20% of our parliament are young people.”
The cause goes beyond representation, and actually influences the future of the country. Currently, politicians are creating a future they may very well not be here to enjoy. As an example, decisions are being made around renewable energies but it’s today’s young people who are going to be impacted by these decisions the most in the future.
In Katie’s words: “They should also be really concerned about the future of the country, and what young people want to see in the future, because you need to be planning for the future with the people who are going to be there, that’s not the 80 year olds that’s going to be the 20 year olds.”