This year is the first time I will vote in a federal election, and I've been enrolled to vote since the day I turned 16.
My parents fostered in me a strong interest in politics from a young age, engaging my siblings and I in conversation and asking our opinions on political issues.
But, as a young person I also know what it is to have your views dismissed and assumed to be someone without sufficient life experience. As a 20 year old with a strong interest in issues that will affect my generation for years to come I want to be a circuit breaker for other young people who may be already starting to feel unheard, undervalued or unrepresented by politicians in Canberra.
As one of UNICEF Australia's young ambassadors, we're calling on the successful government to form a National Youth Advisory Council which will provide a platform for young people to actively consult on issues and spearhead initiatives.
It's an important channel for young people to contribute to the discussion of the issues and possible solutions for problems such as, but not limited to, climate change, cost of living and mental health that will impact them for many years to come.
It will also provide a voice for young people from different parts of Australia with different life experiences because one person cannot be the voice for all young Australians.
My life in regional Tasmania and the issues affecting young people I know such as employment opportunities and access to specialist healthcare, are different to those from Western Sydney, even though we share some common pressures like the cost of living.
Apart from social media, young people have few ways of connecting with politicians about their unique needs. Yelling on Twitter is one way, but it doesn't get you very far.
If we want to create engaged voters, we must have politicians who are engaged with young people in a consistent and meaningful way. We must ask young people their opinions, listen to their views, and show them they have been heard throughout the policy decision-making process.
Some people might think that young people don't have enough life experience to be able to contribute to a discussion, but just because they are young doesn't mean they don't understand the big issues.
I was five when the global financial crisis hit, and my dad lost his job. I am from a family of four children and my mum had just given birth to my younger brother. I remember how hard those economic conditions were on my family. Fast forward to COVID and my mum's work hours were severely cut back, and my dad was unfortunate to lose his job for a second time. As an 18-year-old I helped support the family by working to contribute to the family's bills and cost of living.
So, even though I have not yet voted in a federal election I have personal experience and a strong understanding of issues such as economic impacts on families, including even the youngest children. There are also some issues that are unique to young people, like equal access to education.
Their direct recent experience of the education system makes them specifically qualified to consult on what's working and what isn't, as much as teachers and parents, to ensure money is well spent and will have a positive impact on those who need it.
While our window into the world comes from a different perspective, our view is still valid and worthy of being heard just much as the person voting in their last federal election.
While our window into the world comes from a different perspective, our view is still valid and worthy of being heard just much as the person voting in their last federal election. Australia is a great country, brimming with passionate people and innovators.
We can be instrumental in meaningful change on some of the biggest issues of our generation. We only need to remember that people who can make a difference don't only come over the age of 25.
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