Raise Our Voice in Parliament – Empowerment

Imagine the impact when politicians across the nation commit to echoing the concerns and aspirations of our younger generations, speaking their words on the issues that matter most to them.

Let us introduce you to the Raise Our Voice in Parliament initiative.

It’s where the future of Australia meets the present in a collaboration fuelled by passion and purpose, allowing young Australians to be the architects of change. Through collaboration and advocacy, the initiative strives to pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive Australia.

In classic WhyNot style, we love any opportunity to amplify voices and have created a space on our platform for a 5-part series to ensure the voices of the 2023 Raise Our Voice in Parliament campaign are heard.

Help make their voices loud and become a catalyst for progress and transformation.

Content Warning

The following Raise our Voice in Parliament speeches may contain themes that might be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can visit our Creating a Safe Space page to see a full list of support services.

Australia must listen to its youth, hear our voices, and participate in carrying out our proposals for better change.

Although we are your future, we do not feel sufficiently supported. The policies of the government constantly appear to fall short, and we never get what we need. However, what do we require?

Australia needs to be accessible. Access to education, avenues for change, networks of support, and a more inclusive Australia because, after all, aren’t diversity and inclusivity what we’re all about? Even though we are still youngsters learning, you tell us to shout louder while ignoring our cries for assistance, and you blame us for being immature because “it’s too complex for you to understand,” but I disagree.

We do comprehend. We acknowledge the difficulty of your work, but we would like to live in a country where the fundamental issues of our planet are dealt with. Targets include living standards and quality of life as well as climate change.

Many of us are getting tired of fighting for the change that needs to occur. We want to preserve Earth and take advantage of all it has to offer, but you only worry about your financial gain. Australia is our home, and you can, undoubtedly, do better.

Words by Arwa. Read aloud in Parliament by Adam Bandt MP.

 

My name is Cassidy, I’m 17 and a member of the Ryan electorate.

As a daughter, a sister, a friend, and as a young woman, I write this to bring attention to the issue of period poverty in Australia.

Period poverty describes the struggle that many girls and individuals who menstruate face in accessing sanitary products. This is a struggle that nearly two-thirds of young women in Australia experience. Period poverty is a silent crisis that infringes upon the health, dignity, and well-being of those who menstruate, particularly those in rural and low-income areas. In remote communities, packs of pads can cost between $15 and $20, causing many girls to resort to stealing pads or skipping school entirely.

Greater access to products and education surrounding menstrual health (especially in rural areas) are key to destigmatising and solving period poverty. We have the power, resources, and moral obligation to provide free menstrual products in schools and public spaces, and support initiatives that empower marginalised communities.

This issue requires collective nationwide support for the dignity and respect of all Australians who menstruate. Significant action in solving period poverty is the change that would make Australia a better place for future generations.

Words by Cassidy

 

I’m Darcy, I’m 17, and a Grade 12 student from Cairns in the Leichhardt Electorate.

The vastness of Australia is ingrained within the fabric of our national identity, romanticised in prose, and heralded as the true epitome of the Australian condition; that no distance nor harsh landscape shall impede our nation from striving for greatness.

But for far too long, rural, and regional Australia, and their very communities and concern’s, have been lost amidst the noise of our large nation. I live in a land where a person my age is 10% less likely to complete grade 12; where I am statistically more likely to commit self-harm at higher rates than those from the cities. It is so easy to feel that I’m not worthy of attention, that those in the halls of my school and every school across rural Australia, aren’t seen as significant in the grand scheme of government.

Humbly, I beg you, those in this chamber, to open your ears, to listen to rural Australia, to have genuine concern. Together, bonded in brotherly fraternity as Australians, these issues can be alleviated; to ensure that rural Australians aren’t simply another number on a spreadsheet. Please. Just listen. It’s the least you can do.

Words by Darcy. Read aloud in Parliament by Warren Entsch MP.

 

In 1973, there was an amendment to the Electoral Act which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. This decision was due to the increasing amount of supposed “adult” responsibilities 18-year-olds held including working, paying taxes, and serving their country.

Today, in 2023, 16- and 17-year-olds can get married, consent to medical procedures, drive, work, pay taxes, and enlist in the defence force. Along with this, we are seeing monumental shifts in the way young people interact with politics, with young people leading the way in protests and campaigns more than ever. Other countries like Scotland, Austria, Belgium and more exemplify the necessity to lower the voting age to 16, as data demonstrates that it improves voter participation and education, as well as strengthens our democracy. Something which is of key importance to our society.

For me personally, I am in year 12 and looking towards my future. While as young people we are told to look forward to our futures, with the housing and rental crisis, cost of living crisis, and rising costs of education, it often feels like walking into a future of empty promises.

That along with climate change, social inequalities and more, it shouldn’t be surprising when young people feel helpless. However, providing 16- and 17-year-olds with the opportunity to vote, will allow us to pave a future that we are proud to be a part of and excited to look forward to as well as improve intergenerational equity. This is why it is time to lower the voting age to 16!

Words by Isabelle 

 

An equal Australia. I wish for an Australia where a woman can dream the same dreams as anyone else. Where gender and racial equality isn’t seen as a radical idea, but rather the norm. Where a woman can walk down the street, and just walk, without thinking of all the things that could go wrong. An Australia where all our future generations are one and free.

I wish for an Australia where women are believed. Where they are not asked about their clothes or why they did not speak up sooner. I wish for an Australia where women did not have stories to speak up about. I hope future generations do not have any stories like these to tell.

I hope for an Australia where women, especially diverse women, have their talents recognised and valued.

I have seen the Matilda’s, a more diverse Federal Parliament, and many strong women in my community inspire me and other women to break barriers. I hope that future generations of women can achieve all they want without needing to break barriers. And I hope that this growth and progress extends to women from all sorts of diverse backgrounds.

An Australia that everyone can truly be part of, is a better Australia for all of us.

Words by Isha. Read aloud in Parliament by Senator Faruqi.

 

Establishing a Youth Cultural Ambassador program would offer a dynamic approach to enrich Australia’s heritage for future generations. Engaging young individuals from diverse backgrounds, this program would bridge generational gaps by preserving traditions and languages.

Youth Cultural Ambassadors would actively engage with their peers, schools, and communities. They would organise workshops, presentations, and cultural events to educate fellow young Australians about the cultural richness that constitutes modern Australia.

Furthermore, fostering empathy and understanding is pivotal for future generations. Youth exchanges among individuals from diverse backgrounds would facilitate deeper connections and appreciation of each other’s cultures. Diverse perspectives also benefit the workforce, leading to innovation and economic growth. This firsthand experience would be instrumental in breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions.

Creative initiatives would be encouraged among these ambassadors, allowing them to collaborate on projects that blend traditional elements with contemporary expressions. These endeavours, whether in the realms of art, music, or storytelling, would not only preserve cultural heritage but also create new and exciting forms of cultural expression.

Youth ambassadors would celebrate the fusion of cultures in Australia, cultivating a unique and evolving identity. Embracing all cultures creates a truly multicultural and inclusive Australia for future generations to thrive.

Words by Jyotsna 

 

Australia, the land of diverse culture and joy, needs immediate change to empower the future generations, which are crooked by teen violence and abrupt teen culture. Strict evaluation of education is urgently needed to protect our future generation from twisted values and a perceived lack of interest in education.

It’s high time that people can feel safe on public transports or just on the streets, without suffering from despicable behaviours of teens. It is certain that one has experienced the provocative actions roaming teens are bringing. As someone who has been harassed on buses by teens, this is not how Australia should be presented.

Our future should be bright and giving. We need a change on how moral values are brought to the classrooms and outside. We have to target the roots of these problems, from parents counselling and nurseries. There is no doubt that better education leads to better generations. We shall reignite the hopes of our future together.

Words by Pak

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