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.
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.
I want the total political apathy that has pervaded our society gone, and instead, a politically engaged society that believes change is possible and bothers to hold those in power accountable.
Our current apathetic and nihilistic approach emboldens the corrupt politicians who will occasionally do something positive for the community yet bend over backwards for their vested interests. The same politicians who, upon retirement, immediately find incredibly well-paid corporate jobs and we as a society don’t even bat an eyelid. When we stop believing change is possible and stop fighting, we inherently uphold our broken political system.
We accept small victories with the mindset that small wins are better than nothing, which is not okay. Future generations will die from it. I am not being overly dramatic. When the people in power do not do everything to protect its people by delivering on climate justice, providing good social welfare, and in general enact policies that seek to better our society – people will suffer, and people will die.
This is especially true for future generations as we experience global boiling, zero housing security, a dying economy, worsening mental and physical health, as well as the continued systematic oppression of minority groups because those in power failed us.
Words by Alice
“If it’s true… that men have more power (generally speaking) than women, is that a bad thing?”
“I just ask myself why the Prime Minister doesn’t call out [rape] for what it is — a silly little girl who got drunk.”
These aren’t the words of online trolls, or immature teenagers. These are the words of a former Prime Minister and a member of the Order of Australia.
I, myself, go to a prestigious selective high school in the Eastern Suburbs. I should be the picture of privilege, and of class. Yet, I have been told to my face that if a boy had his way, he’d drug and rape me for hours on end. I have been told to go to the kitchen, to the mental hospital, to a brothel, because that’s where women and transgender people belong.
The boys who call women skanks, sluts, and whores, look at men like Tony Abbott – former Prime Minister, and Jeremy Cordeaux – recipient of the Order of Australia, and they take their words as fact, because these men are powerful, ‘distinguished’, and therefore must know what they’re doing.
How can we expect our boys to behave themselves when the most ‘distinguished’ members of our society can’t? How can we expect them to respect non-men as their equals, to judge them the same way they’d judge a man, if our own leaders cannot?
If our nation really wants change, we must begin with our leaders. I implore all members of this Parliament to watch the way they speak; for the words uttered, and narratives perpetuated, in our courts, newsrooms, and even this chamber will inevitably make their way down to your children’s primary school playgrounds.
Words by Charles
My name is Drew, I am 16 years old, and I live in the federal electorate of Perth.
Politicians are accountable to, and representing, the people. Politicians make important decisions about our society and how we live, and their decisions affect our future.
As such, the decision-making process should be transparent to, and guided by, the people, so that we understand how we are being governed and why. The people of Australia elected politicians to represent them and their best interests, in Parliament.
Political donations make this transparency and clarity difficult to achieve. Large corporate donors, from any industry, have used and do use, their vast resources to donate to Australian political parties. Whilst there are transparency laws regarding disclosure, the origin of many donations is hidden behind associated entities. The influence that these large corporations have is concerning – how can the Australian public be sure that our elected representatives are representing our interests, and not those of their largest corporate donors? How can we be sure that critical decisions that will affect our future are being made based on facts, rather than financial influence?
The vast resources of large corporations means that the influence they have on the decision-making process is much greater than that of an ordinary Australian. I urge politicians to legislate to increase the transparency of the origins of these donations and ensure that their decisions are based on facts and data, rather than financial influence from large corporations.
Politicians are elected to represent us, the people of Australia – not large corporations.
Words by Drew
My name is Grace and I’m 19 years old. I’m from the Moreton electorate in Queensland.
A lot of young people, like me, have become increasingly disappointed with the current state of politics in Australia, and similarly are fed up with our opinions being overlooked by individuals who are meant to represent us.
How many times will young people have to raise our voices before you actually start listening? Or maybe a more fitting question would be, how many times before you start to care about what you hear? Or how many times before you take adequate action on the issues that matter to us?
We’re angry, and why wouldn’t we be?
We need a shift in how this country listens to and consults young people. We need more than optional 90-second speeches. We need mandatory future generation or youth advisory boards for all organisations, public and private. We need a ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’ like the one enacted in Wales in 2015. We need to consider lowering the voting age to 16.
We need you to change your mindsets on how you interact with young people. And if not, we need to change who is sitting in your seats.
Words by Grace
My name is Imogen, and I am from the Corio Electorate Ward.
I believe the change that would make our country a better place for future generations would be the reform of the youth justice system and how it runs. In my experiences with the system, it has either been too harsh on young people or not harsh enough.
Young people that commit violent crimes such as sexual assault, will get no charges placed on them if they are a first-time perpetrator, or if the victim is deemed to have no injuries due to the assault. Young people who inflict significant trauma on others are let off with zero consequences, however young people who are addicted to illicit drugs get juvenile detention punishments as opposed to rehabilitation?
The system, as a whole, needs to be reevaluated to ensure the safety of all young people, and so no person has to ever sit in a classroom next to the individual who assaulted them. Young people who commit violent crimes need harsher consequences to recognise the seriousness of their actions. We need to make our country a better, safer place for our young people of the future.
Words by Imogen
My name is Maddison, I’m a 24-year-old woman who recently moved to the ACT electorate of Bean, from Farrer in NSW.
When I was 11, we got our first and only female prime minister. I can vividly remember PM Julia Gillard being elected. I remember my teacher adding her picture to the wall next to Kevin Rudd’s. But I also remember the media questioning her ability to lead because she wasn’t married and was without children.
When I was 13, Julia Gillard gave her famous misogyny speech in parliament. Even though I didn’t fully understand it, I knew it was a big deal. But she was made out to be an emotional woman unfit to lead.
When I was 19, I remember Julie Bishop wearing those red shoes. You know the ones. The red shoes that the media was so quick to latch on to. I remember thinking why anyone cares what women wear, no one cares about what men wear. But in this society, that’s what it is to be a woman. To have people question your very being.
I dream of an Australia where you have girls wanting to be the PM when they grow up.
I dream of an Australia that empowers girls to chase their dreams.
I dream of an Australia that has a media that builds women up, rather than destroying them.
I dream of being 90 years old and Australia having had many female prime ministers.
Words by Maddison
My name is Mijica, and I am 25 years old, and I come from the Yerrabi Electorate of the Australian Capital Territory.
I believe that the immigration process for people and their families to settle in Australia should be made more efficient through more translation and free legal support for low-income families and individuals.
My friends and family in my local Yerrabi electorate come from diverse backgrounds. Diverse in ages, sexual orientation, religion, gender, political views, and culture but one thing that unites us is our unwavering devotion to see a better and brighter Australia.
I propose the change to the federal government to reconsider the current process to types of visa extensions and the application for permanent, working, family, parent, and spouse and temporary visa types. Reconsideration, in my view as a young person who has been through the process, includes considering the cost of visas and the circumstances people and their families are in to offer services that empower them to thrive in the process to call Australia home.
The Australian Government has, from a policy level, considered the factors that make people and their families eligible to stay or visit in Australia, however offering services to ensure people make the best possible decisions in the process is very important. This includes offering translation services for individuals and people who struggle in speaking, reading, and understanding the English language.
Another initiative is to fund current multicultural support organisations to empower individuals and families who wish to apply for an Australian visa through support groups, food supply, and mental health support.
It is an honour to go through the process to one day call Australia home. I call on my Australian Government to help make our immigration process more efficient to help migrants through the provision of support services to assist applicants in the process.
Words by Mijica
I’m Tara, a 20-year-old resident of the Tangney electorate in Western Australia, a state that still sends children as young as 10 to prison.
What better way to create a brighter future for Australia’s upcoming generations than by preventing their entry into the prison system?
Children are exceptionally vulnerable to harm, and their interactions with the criminal justice system can inflict lifelong developmental trauma, especially given that their brains are still in the crucial stages of growth. Shockingly, nearly 90% of our incarcerated children in WA have severe mental impairments that only worsen in the prison environment.
Despite an abundance of evidence, recommendations, and viable alternatives, Australian states and territories persist in convicting children as young as 10. The current system lacks support for rehabilitation, with approximately 55% of incarcerated children in WA returning to prison within a year, perpetuating a vicious cycle of crime.
It’s clear that prisons do more harm than good! We urgently need to commit to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 nationwide. Let’s redirect young people towards meaningful rehabilitation rather than detention.
Words by Tara. Read aloud in Parliament by Senator Payman.