Australia

WA senator introduces bill to lower voting age

WA senator Jordon Steele-John will announce plans to introduce a bill to lower the voting age to 16 to improve democratic engagement.

Mr Steele-John said young people were more politically engaged than ever before and deserved the opportunity to take part in our democratic process.

He said he had spoken to hundreds of young people and the message from them has been overwhelmingly clear: we want to have a say in our future.

“In the last few years weve seen a surge of young people making their voices heard about the issues that matter to them; the marriage equality campaign in Australia being a prime example,” he said.

“Its time the Australian political establishment stopped locking young people out; we care deeply about our future and the world around us and yet dont get a seat at the table in making those decisions.

“Its frustrating to me that young people aged 16 can work full time, drive cars, pay taxes, make choices about medical treatment and about their own bodies yet cant vote or elect the people who make decisions affecting them.

“Lowering the voting age to 16 represents an exciting chance to reinvigorate the way we teach civics education by bringing democratic participation into the classroom in a whole new way.

“But, we need to see state and federal governments working together with schools and teachers to capitalise on this opportunity.

“Whether its in Australia or globally, young people are proving their right to be included in the democratic process.”

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition chair Katie Acheson welcomed Senator Steele-Johns announcement and said her organisation had been calling for a debate on the issue for years.

Ms Acheson said lowering the voting age would add more than half a million young people aged 16 and 17 to the electoral roll and give politicians an incentive to consider how the decisions they make affects young people and their futures.

“We know that the younger people are when they first vote, the more likely they are to continue voting throughout their lives; including them at an earlier age as part of our national conversation and political process can only increase their civic engagement and understanding of Australian society and their place within it,” she said.

“As the national peak body for young people we now look forward to continuing this discussion on a national level and engaging young people Australia-wide.”

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