Important role of youths and their relationship with politics

As you may be aware, Deputy Speaker, this week marks National Youth Week in South Australia, with the theme Our Voice—Our Future. Firstly, I would like to thank and congratulate 2021 Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall who cofounded Taboo with school friend Eloise Hall on their role in breaking down stigma around menstruation and providing greater access to hygiene products. Isobel and Eloise are great success stories from Adelaide. So, well done to both of them as they go about their role in the next 12 months being ambassadors for young Australians.

Today, I would like to take the opportunity to talk about young people in our community, their important role in our society and the relationship they have with framing policy going forward. It was not too long ago that we were all young or young at heart and it is important that, as we represent our communities, we represent our whole communities, from young people right across all age spectrums. I know that in our roles as MPs, many of the community groups that we are involved with are not always filled with young people. How we engage with young people is always a constant question for me.

I had a young work experience student do a week with me a couple of weeks ago, Jett Threaplton, from Urrbrae Agricultural High School, who actually volunteered and wanted to do work experience in an MP's office, which I thought was quite unique. I asked Jett how politicians can better engage with young people and Jett said that for him politics has become a topic exclusive for parents and other adults to discuss. He also went on to say there is a stereotype of politics being exclusive and for adults. It encourages young people to neglect and push involvement aside.

This was also certainly much of the theme that came through a round table I had in the Kingston Room in Old Parliament House a couple of weeks ago with a group of year 10 students from St John's Grammar. Many of the issues that we discussed with them were very relevant to their cohort, as they were late school leavers into young adults. The discussion was around drug use in society, consent, a lot of issues around road rules and getting your licence for your car, but more importantly, how they participated and perceive politics as well.

There is a reality that there is a bit of toxicity in politics at the moment. We have cancel culture, we have Twitter wars, and politics has become very divisive, and we can see this at the national debate where since the Greens and Kevin Rudd squibbed any action on climate change we have not had certainty in that area for over a decade and a half.

Politics is becoming polarising and too often this is becoming the stereotype. Both Jett and the students from St John's Grammar said to me that they felt that taking part in the conversations about current affairs and world issues were daunting challenges and there is a perception of the knowledge that is required to participate and have a view. I think it is a disappointing situation and a tragic set of circumstances that young people feel that they cannot engage in the process because they feel they might not be equipped with the right sentiments and statements. It is for us as leaders in our communities to work out how we can work with young people to not only have their voices heard but be able to learn from them as well.

John Mill famously laid it out in his great piece of work On Liberty back in 1859 when he talked about the need for free speech and a free society and that an opinion contrary to our own may be true or true in part and therefore may require to be heard in order for us to correct our own erroneous views. In reverse, if the contrary opinion is in error then the airing of it may also help to remind people of the truth and prevent its slippage into an ignorant dogma which may in time, if unchallenged itself, become lost.

For this reason we must always engage young people to ensure that there is a battle of ideas. As parliamentarians, we need to engage young adults on their platform and instill confidence in our future generations to speak out, take a stance and realise they can hold an opinion on one side of the spectrum whilst also maintaining relationships with those who hold opposing view.

We need to educate and provide them with more opportunities to engage in debate through more modern means and instil a desire to explore issues in detail rather than in bite-sized pieces. It also impressed on me the importance of civics in our school curriculum as well as history and politics. We talked especially with the St John's students about the mediums we use—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok—and it is all out there to get involved with young people. As we do that we will no doubt become a better society over time.

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