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.
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