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.
My name is Alexis, I am 22 years old and currently live in Western Australia.
Respect for women, this is the change I want to see to better future generations.
On average one woman a week is murdered due to male violence towards women. This year we have devastatingly lost 43 women to gendered violence. 43 women. Why is this violence so normalised, where does it stem from?
Could it be a lack of respect for women, which in turn creates a culture whereby gendered violence is normalised as women are seen as lesser than? Well, if respect is one piece of this violent puzzle, the question I want to pose to you all here today is, are women being respected in parliament? And if they are not being respected, what sort of precedent is that setting for our country?
If women are torn down, excluded, ridiculed, called names, and told that their experiences are invalid in a place that is meant to govern and protect us, what sort of message are we sending? That these gendered atrocities are, somehow, okay? What behaviours are we unconsciously normalising?
Respect for women, respect for women in parliament and in every facet of life, this is the change I want to see to better the future generations of young women.
Words by Alexis. Read aloud in Parliament by Tracy Roberts MP.
“It started with bullying about my weight, in class I received notes and messages. I was slapped and beaten by my peers. I was ashamed of my own body. I finally had enough and wanted to end it all. I poured a litre of rubbing alcohol on me and lit my clothes and let myself burn.”
He was 16. I want to recognise Jonathan here today and salute his fight against school bullying. His fight must be our fight. These individual stories must fuel our collective battles. And Jonathan is not alone, he is one of many other stories; Emilie – aged 10, and Olivier – aged 14. These are their stories. No child should feel so hurt and alone that they take their own life. No parent should end up reading a eulogy at their children’s funeral.
When I was 12, I faced similar harassment to Jonathan, I attempted suicide. I’m fortunate enough to have survived, but my bullying experience has left me with trauma and insecurities to this day. Bullying is a terrible tragedy that can undermine thousands of young lives every day. It is atrocious and intolerable.
Today, I use my first speech to lend my voice to those who may not have a voice. On behalf of all of us, I want to send a tribute to them and send our condolences to their families and friends, but also send them our apologies. These children are our future, but their futures were tragically cut short.
These are children who were robbed of their potential and their lives. This state and our laws should have protected them. All of us have a collective responsibility. A collective responsibility to ensure no more lives are tragically lost.
What we must recognise today is to never take such harassment and abuse lightly, because it all starts with one joke, one insult, one slap and it leads on. Those who stay silent because of the fear of reprisal are silently supporting the violence.
If not us, who will act. If not now, when will we act?
Ultimately, will we put our heads in the sand now only to bury them in our hands later?
Words by Fulin
I’m Isabella, I use she/her pronouns, and I’m a 21-year-old student living in the Canberra electorate.
A change that would undoubtedly make Australia a better place for future generations would be the passing of laws that protect intersex people’s rights. Unfortunately, many Australians are not aware of the fight for intersex rights, despite its persistence and urgency.
Intersex people are people whose sex characteristics, such as their chromosomes or reproductive developments, differ from medical norms for female or male bodies. In all states and territories except for the ACT, it is legal for unnecessary surgeries to be performed on intersex people without their consent. Doctors are allowed to surgically modify intersex people at birth, simply to make their sex characteristics appear more typically female or male.
This harmful practice violates the human rights of intersex people and must be criminalised by all other states and territories. I urge all politicians in this chamber to make intersex rights a priority, and to follow the ACT’s lead in protecting intersex people from unnecessary surgeries that occur without their consent.
For too long the right to bodily autonomy has been denied to intersex people. Let’s ensure their rights are not denied for a moment longer.
Words by Isabella. Read aloud in Parliament by Alicia Payne MP.
My name is Katie, I’m 20 years old and I’m a university student from the North Sydney electorate.
I believe parliament should prioritise mental health prevention through mandated compulsory education for primary and high school students. This education should be stigma free, age appropriate and inclusive.
In Year 5 I experienced my first period of severe mental ill-health where depression made eating, sleeping, and socialising with my peers a daily challenge. But I am not alone in my experiences. The 2014, ‘Young Minds Matter’ national household survey estimated 14% of 4- to 17-year olds experienced a mental illness in the past 12 months.
It is also well known that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in our nation. Mental health is vital to the health and wellbeing and every child that grows up in our nation deserves the right to reach a healthy adulthood. Through improving mental health literacy, we help improve helping-seeking rates and reduce the shame around talking about mental health.
Mental health education provides hope for the upcoming generations, hope that we may help people feel less alone, hope that we may reduce the 9 Australians that take their lives every day in our country.
Words by Katie. Read aloud in Parliament by Kylea Tink MP.
My name is Ro. I’m 21 years old and I live in the Moreton electorate. I am a proud transgender young person.
We are seeing a rapid escalation of anti-trans hatred from a small but vocal section of Australia. The lack of action on this issue has left me and my transgender peers left behind.
I came out as transgender at the age of 14, and since that time I have been a victim of hate-motivated violence on multiple occasions. This is a common story amongst transgender youth, with studies showing that around half of all transgender people have experienced anti-trans hate in the last 12 months.
Transgender people deserve to feel safe in our communities. We deserve to live a life free from discrimination and prejudice. We deserve to thrive.
To make Australia a safer country for the next generation of transgender youth, I urge the government to take action to protect my community from hate. The epidemic of hate-based violence is an issue that needs to be tackled before it is too late.
We need the government to introduce community-led interventions to protect transgender people from abuse, harassment, vilification, and violence. If we work together as a united community, we can make Australia a safe, comfortable, and loving place for transgender people.
Words by Ro. Read aloud in Parliament by Graham Perrett MP.
My name is Trisha. I am a 16-year-old student from Fowler. I am in Year 11.
I only have one more year of high school left. I should be optimistic about the future. I should be excited to attend university, pursue my dream career, and make the big bucks. But I’m anxious.
How will I achieve these goals without certainty? Where will I go? Where will I live? Where will I stay? Should I pay rent to live in the city centre, or should I also spend 3 hours commuting daily to university, or simply to show up to work?
That should absolutely not be a difficult choice to make, yet millions of young Australians eventually have to. They eventually make up their minds. They either pay exorbitant rent or sit in a mind-numbing train for hours.
The power dynamic between landlord and tenant is clear for anyone to see. Like Ursula, tenants are bound with a contract with purposefully vague terms. There are no clear promises from landlords to make fixes. There are no clear promises they will not be unfairly evicted.
My vision for Australia is a flourishing society where everyone can pursue their dreams with no anxiety, no worries, and no fears of being homeless in an instance. I can see optimism on the horizon, taste the freedom on the other side and scent of sweetness, hear the vivacious cheers, and feel the pounding hearts of many who have received their university and interview acceptance emails.
Yet, this vision is slipping away from me the longer the Parliament waits to take action. Parliament needs to immensely increase rental support and impose a rent freeze that we have all been asking for.
One third of Australians are renters, yet nothing sufficient is being done. There needs to be a rent freeze. There needs to be a rent cap which can be adjusted for inflation. Instead, there is no rent freeze. House rents are increased three times as wages.
I urgently implore the parliament to successfully pass legislation to establish a rent freeze, discussed by economists, politicians, and people alike. Start discussing more policies to assist renters today. Now. All of Australia is waiting.
Words by Trisha. Read aloud in Parliament by Senator Shoebridge.