What if we lived in a world where 16-year-olds could not just get a driver’s licence, hold down a job, leave school, move out of home etc. etc. but also had the option to vote?
The Make it 16 campaign is all about lowering the voting age to 16. Yep, you heard that right! They believe that young people, like us, should have a say in shaping the decisions that affect our lives.
Supporters of the campaign are fired up! They think it’s time to break down barriers and empower young voices. They say that including 16-year-olds in the democratic process will bring fresh perspectives, diverse ideas and ensure our concerns are addressed. After all, we’re the ones who will inherit the consequences of decisions made today.
Critics have their reservations. They worry that 16-year-olds might not have enough life experience to make informed choices. Some argue that politics can be complex, and we might not fully grasp the consequences of our decisions at such a young age.
As always, we want your unfiltered thoughts! We want to know where you stand on this issue. Should the voting age be lowered to 16, or do you have concerns about it?
The following unfiltered thoughts 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 knew everything by age 16 and it was only the doubt that comes with each passing day that has turned me into a 27-year-old wreck. I was a brown Rimbaud, but time, tide, and the ticking closer of death and taxes turned me to the many other faces you pass when walking down the street. In fact, had the world been handed to me at 16 (and by the world I mean trust and freedom) maybe I’d have fared better and not turned to drink and destruction to lend me a kind voice or a shoulder to cry on. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Sameen (he/him) 27 Nepal
Voice of the Young
I think it’s a fairly universal childhood experience to want to grow up. To marvel over the independence, freedom and power of those around us. To desperately wish the years away.
It’s only through adolescence that we are able to appreciate the beauty that is immaturity and the bliss that is ignorance. We become plagued by stressors and worries regarding the lives we will grow into. Fretting over our path beyond and our ultimate powerlessness over it.
Rushed to make our own decisions and plan our futures and make connections and learn and mature and love and explore and have it all figured out. Hyperaware of what is expected of us to become a ‘success’, and judged from every angle.
Yet still denied a real voice.
Simultaneously too immature to be taken seriously, yet more and more ‘wise beyond years’. Simultaneously too careless, yet overly invested in trivial matters. Simultaneously too inexperienced, yet blessed with opportunities past generations only dreamed of.
Perhaps for the majority, 16 is too young. Perhaps I even agree with current limitations. But not for all, and I think that the views of the future at least deserve to be heard.
Rachael (she/her) 21 WA
Dissonance at its most basic level of meaning
Voting has been such a sacred part of our society for many years. Everyone who graduates from year 12 registers to vote. It’s a tradition, one with a hard and fast age requirement. I see it as being like height requirements for roller coasters. If you don’t meet it, you don’t get to ride. But then again, the voting age isn’t protecting someone from falling off the Hair Raiser. It’s about responsibility, and levels of arguably more important responsibility are already awarded in other places of society to people below that voting age. I’m talking about driving a CAR! You perceive these people as being mentally and politically incompetent and yet you put the literal lives of human beings in their hands? That’s just dissonance at its most basic level of meaning. People aged 16 are far more aware of their surroundings than people think they are. 16-year-olds advocate, they protest, they strive for change and tackle with imbalance. Their shoulders are worthy of the added responsibility of voting, for they can already bear even greater duties.
Joshua (he/him), 19 NSW
Voting is a Right, but the Right Vote is a Luxury
Decreasing the voting age to 16 increases diversity in voices – no doubt about that. We introduce young people to engage in democracy and civil action, giving them a chance to discuss these issues with family and friends. We definitely need more progressive and innovative perspectives. Lowering the voting age to 16 provides a great chance for young people to engage in democracy, but I don’t think participating in elections early on is the right way to do that. There simply isn’t enough time or support to think and reflect independently.
What are 16 year olds up to? We might be in high school, overthinking about grades, future and work. We might have stuff happening at home. We might be trying to find ourselves, friends or even find love. Most of us still live at home or at school, where our friends and family play a significant role in shaping our opinions. Our voting choices might be influenced more by what others are doing rather than personal reflection. Sure, some of us have the time to think about the greater good, but I really think those are the lucky ones who have the privilege of a supportive environment to do so.
Anonymous, 23 QLD
Every year I think about how little I knew the year before
Being 22 myself, I can still remember being 16 and being convinced that I was ahead of my age and thinking I was very intelligent, where in reality every year since then I look back and laugh about how little I really knew. I’m also almost certain 16 year old me didn’t even know who our current prime minister was, or the simple differences between the different political parties, let alone did I care. Lowering the voting age would essentially add a ton of dummy votes in my opinion.
Jennifer (she/her), 22 WA
Opt-in for Voting
I can drive. I can go to jail. I can get involved and sign up for political parties, I can even take an ATAR course on Politics and Law. But I can’t actually vote. In 218 days, I will be able to. But until then, I wait.
But that’s me. I’ve always been interested in change. And not everyone is, and I respect that. I’m sure you can think of some 16 year olds that you *don’t* want influencing the future. Which is why I say voting should be optional for 16 and 17 year olds.
The most important thing in voting is giving the people a voice – but the common argument against Making it 16 is that we reiterate the voices of our parents, and haven’t found our own opinions. But if we made it optional, it is likely that those who are more educated on politics will vote, reducing the chances of voting blindly.
Taryn (they/them), 17 WA
Self-imposed age limits
I’m gonna stop being politically active at 50 (if I live that long) because at that point, I want the next generation to take over. It’s unfortunate I haven’t had my say to a degree where I could have made changes in the way society operates.
But that isn’t what I want for my peers and juniors. I would hate to be the old fuck standing in the way of what the next caretakers of our wide and wonderful world want for it.
Anonymous, 27 VIC
I believe that one’s teenage years are a pivotal time in one’s life. I’m recent years sixteen year old have been forerunners in environmental activism, mental health advocacy and so much more. Sixteen year olds are smarter and more capable than they look. I believe it’s high time we heard their voices in politics. I believe that giving them the opportunity to vote will not only be very empowering for them but it will also lead to social change. This will be a win win for everyone. They should be allowed to make decisions in matters that affect the future they will inherit.
Anonymous, 16 VIC
Change in times
Today is a world that is revolutionary and things are changing and so should certain norms. In todays world, I believe 16 year old’s are mature and can think critically so I don’t think it is a big deal for them to vote. If they can drive and even rent an apartment what stops them from voting? If it is a simple process and they can easily understand, I believe that this is acceptable. If the government doesn’t understand times are changing, there is no growth in society. We need to stand our ground. I think what can be done is more awareness because lots of people would disagree but these are things that we need to look at. Each year tons of old people go to vote but it is not even their future at hand. I believe 16 year old’s should start voting to pave a better and bright future for themselves.
Anonymous, 21 VIC
Leave it to the oldies
Teenagers don’t need to vote. Not all 16 year old’s are into politics, and honestly not all of them care. What difference will it make to have 16 and 17 year old’s voting? Compared to the millions of other voters, it will make a mere difference in the outcome. At 16, there shouldn’t be a responsibility or mandate that it’s necessary to vote; realistically, I believe many would quite simply not vote and would then cop a fine!
Social media is very good at persuading the younger generation, and politicians and parties could use this to their advantage to get the wrong point across to younger people – I mean, they do it already and we are older and not as easily blinded to their lies. Leave the politics to the older people, because lowering the voting age isn’t gonna do much apart from cause unnecessary stress. Let the teenagers be teenagers.
If 16/17 year old’s would like to vote, maybe it would be reasonable to have an exception where the individuals who would like to vote, can apply online for an exemption to allow them to vote whilst underage.
Anonymous, 21 VIC
What has changed?
I am 16; today is my birthday… It’s very weird. It’s weird in the sense that my life just sped by in a matter of milliseconds. The last time I remember or even felt life was when I was 12. It feels like yesterday that I was 12. It was yesterday when COVID was announced on the TV, watching the news anxiously, locked away in the confines of my own home.
I turned 16 today, but I still feel 12. Today, as I turned 16, Mum and Dad went out to vote for the new premier of our state. ‘Hey, Mum, why can’t I vote?’ I asked. ‘Because you are not 18 yet; you need to be an adult.’ What a weird answer. Does that mean that laws only apply to adults, since it’s them who vote and not us? Clearly, all the rules, regulations, and laws won’t apply to us—the action, the cause, the effect—none of those apply to us. I will just ‘wait for the future’ and start from 0.
It’s the next day; I am 18, today is my birthday… It’s very weird. It’s weird in the sense that my life just sped by in a matter of milliseconds. The last time I remember or even felt life was when I was 16. It feels like yesterday that I was 16. But I’m 18, so what has changed? ‘Hey, son, let’s go vote; this will be your first voting now that you have become an adult.’ Today, I’m 18; yesterday, 16; the day before, I was 12. What… has… changed?
Anonymous, 18 VIC
No choice but to have a voice
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Youth v Gov. Based in the US, this documentary recounts the journey of 21 plaintiffs aged between 13-24 who are suing the US government for its negligence in safeguarding their future and creating the climate crisis. Watching this documentary made me realize how we, as young people, have been fighting since a young age for our most fundamental rights. In the case of indigenous communities, it’s access to basic life amenities like cleaning drinking water. In the case of young women, it’s the reproductive wars that rage against their autonomy. In the case of trans youth, it’s the right to basic opportunities that they are systemically denied access to.
While one might argue that age, lack of maturity, and life experience are definitive factors in not allowing young people to vote, I firmly believe that young people today are more informed, involved, and integrated into the inner workings of present-day society. Mainly because, they don’t have a choice but to have a voice.
Hashwina (she/her), 26 VIC
I would understand why those aged 16 to 17 years old want to have a say in shaping the governmental decisions that will ultimately affect them as well. However, knowing what I was like when I was still 16/17, I would literally have no knowledge or clue about political issues or “who is the best suited party” to rule. I also understand that in today’s day and age, teenagers are more exposed to social media than ever before; it is easy for them to be kept up-to-date about things of the world, political parties from other countries even. Currently, this topic is not a strict no from me, but it would definitely be apt to have a tea session with those of this population, and hear them out on their thoughts regarding why they feel that they have the capacity and right at their age to vote for the government they want.
Law (she/her), 22 QLD
Taxation without representation?
Lowering the voting age to 16 is a proposal that has gained momentum in recent years, with compelling arguments in favour of this change. Advocates assert that granting 16-year-olds the right to vote is a logical step towards fostering greater youth engagement in the democratic process and encouraging civic participation from an early age.
At 16, many young individuals are already assuming responsibilities such as paying taxes, working, and even driving. The world has experienced a revolutionary war in which an entire nation rebelled against their colonial overlords for ‘taxation without representation’, yet a similar instance can be witnessed here. 16 year olds are affected by political decisions, from education policies to environmental regulations, and should thus have a say in shaping the future they will inherit. Lowering the voting age could provide an avenue for them to voice their concerns, aspirations, and opinions directly through the ballot box.
Some may argue that 16-year-olds lack the maturity and experience to make informed decisions, perhaps too easily swayed by emotions or demagoguery. While this may certainly be the case, it can be argued that lowering this voting threshold would actually encourage political and civic awareness in younger generations, counteracting this issue in Australia. This early exposure to voting may lead to lifelong participation in the democratic process, bolstering overall voter turnout in the long run.
Lowering the voting age to 16 could invigorate democracy by fostering political engagement among youth, allowing them to influence decisions that directly impact their lives, and promoting a culture of active citizenship from an early age.
Jeremy, 20 QLD
Broader Perspectives, Better Possibilities
I’m definitely in favour of trialling an opt-in voting system for 16–18-year-olds. You’re able to vote, but you’re not fined if you don’t.
We encourage under-18s to get involved in voting in every way but the one that counts – candidates have young volunteers for their parties, you can register to vote from 16, and school SHOULD have equipped you with basic research capabilities and an understanding of democracy by then. Why not trust young people to fully engage in the society that demands their participation?
And to be honest, I trust most 16-year-olds to make choices for a better world than I do most people over 30. Young people are brilliant, talented, intelligent and capable. They have a valuable and unique perspective to offer to our communities. The broader the perspectives we contribute, the better the possibilities for improvement.
Brianna (she/her), 24 QLD
16 is too old.
By the age of 16, todays children have already matured. Not by choice, but by necessity. By 16, a child has already cried themselves to sleep. Another has had their innocence stolen and their worldview shattered. Some have been spat on and cast out because of who they are, while others are beaten and imprisoned for their skin. By 16, there is a child who sleeps on park benches, stomach tearing apart from the emptiness. If a 16 year old can have bruises from someone who said they cared, why can’t they try and make a difference. We are so completely powerless, and we have no way to change this, no way to have our voices heard in our government. No adult could ever understand the pining heart of a young teenager, frustrated and silent, we need to be heard. Our adult population is baffled as teenagers starve to the bone as they stare at the perfection in their phones, yet they don’t try and ask, don’t let us speak. Frankly, 16 is too old. Teenagers deserve to be able to impact law. If we can bare the burdens of the world, then at the very least we should be able to have a vote. Lowering the voting age is a small step, and so much more has to be done, but at the very least, please hear our voices.
Nathaniel (they/them), 17 QLD
Its about competence NOT age
We have sent young men to war before during WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam often as young as 16 and I believe you can enlist with parental permission under 18 still
When you work or spend money you are for paying taxes (Income and GST) you didnt vote for.
When you have a drivers license or industrial license e.g. Hoist or Forklift ticket you are expected to abide safety laws you didnt vote for.
You can get married and even have children under 18 and again you didnt vote for surrounding laws.
Its not about age however and there are plenty of both competent and incompetent under 18 people but I would also argue that this is true for 18+ people as well.
Voting should be based on competence and the ability to understand the political issues of the day and this would also mean that the moment you are no longer competent due to age or illness then you should no longer vote. This is particularly important if you no longer have a longitudal stake in society or if an issue effects younger people more e.g. climate change then older people voting have little stake in the outcome since they will be dead before the impacts are really felt.
Perhaps voting by way of right is not a good idea i.e. look at the US and should remain a civil duty but only given to someone upon completion of competency test.
James (he/him), NSW 32
The change we need
At 16 my mother broke down in front of me. For the first time in my life, I realised that I am not the only person going through life for the first time. Every person is experiencing life through the motions for the first time. All 8 Billion of us across the globe. What does this mean you may ask? Mistakes will be made, discussions will be acknowledged and not everything will always go as planned. When I turned 16 everyone said you won’t feel any different and hey, they weren’t exactly wrong because I was still viewed as a child, still treated as if I know nothing, as if my voice and opinions were ones of a toddler. Yet my body was old enough. My mind was old enough.
A woman when she reaches 16 is said to reach adulthood. It is recognised and celebrated in many cultures and religions as she ‘comes of age.’ Yet, she isn’t really an adult. Ask anyone why 18 is when you truly reach adulthood and they will say ‘I don’t know it just is,’ or ‘at 18 you have had enough life experience to be an adult,’ but what about those who were thrown into adulthood at a young age? At 16 I found what it meant to be an adult. As I sat there with my own mother weeping in my arms because of what I had done I understood in that moment that age and life experience are not an indicator of your knowledge or understanding of the world around you. Watching these powerful people I surround myself with prove time and time again that their voices need to be heard and that our generation understands what is happening and wants to help only to be silenced and cut off because we are children? The deafening silence that adults have pushed onto our voices in fear that what we have to say will be the truth? That is what it means to be our generation. They say that we are not adults and I agree with them. We aren’t adults. We are the difference. We are the future.
Change is scary, and for every single person in this world going through life for the first time. That potential change doesn’t want to be found. But the way we are heading has no backwards or pause. Change is the only way to move forwards and it’s time to acknowledge that the younger generation is that change. Age isn’t just a number, but it should not define our say in our future. At 16 years old I understood that the only way to continue was for things to change. For my say to mean something. This generation is where things turn and that starts with lowering the voting age. 16 may not be an adult, but that does not mean that they are not ready to have a say.
Our voices are loud and it’s time to let us use them. Let our voices be heard as we take control of the only thing we have. Our future. Lower the voting age and let us prove that we can be loud enough to make a difference.
Ashleigh (she/her), 18 WA
Why 16 Year Olds Should be Allowed to Vote (by a previous 16-year-old)
Personally, when I was still at the ripe old age of 16, the only responsibility I really had was towards my own grades at school. Thinking about how long 16 years is, we might think that they have more than enough life experience to be voting and doing all sorts of things. Though looking at the bigger picture, 16 years isn’t that long at all. Despite this, we now live in an age where information can be accessed anywhere at any time, the children of my generation have grown up with the internet and we’re STILL growing up with it. We’ve become the generation with the most access to information ever, and I think our laws need to change to fit that. The world is changing and rather than only relying solely on the older generation, we should look to younger people who will inevitably inherit the world and allow them to make their impact.
Owen (he/him), 18 NSW
Lower the voting age!
I’m proud to support the movement to lower the Australian voting age to 16. Young people face various challenges and issues that profoundly impact our lives and the future we will inherit. From climate change and environmental sustainability to education reform, mental health support, and economic opportunities, these issues directly affect us and our peers. Plus, we’d also be encouraging civic engagement, increase political education, and ensure our concerns are taken seriously.
By lowering the voting age, young people would actually be able to have a say in decisions that will shape our lives and the world we will grow up in. We deserve to have a voice in shaping policies that address the issues we deeply care about and impact our everyday reality.
Crystal (she/her), 26 NSW