With submissions closing on Friday, Environment Victoria is calling for a show of support for the Federal Private Members Bill proposing to lower the voting age to 16. Environment Victoria is currently the ONLY Victorian organisation on the record to have given a public submission to the Committee, showing just how strongly they believe in the power and value of young Victorians.
Environment Victoria’s submission supports their current campaign to enrol 1000 young people ahead of Victoria’s state election in November. The young people they are working with report feeling disenfranchised by the failure of politicians to act on critical issues like climate change.
“We know young people can be very politically engaged and active on the issues they care about,” said Environment Victoria Climate Campaigner, Cat Nadel.
“Voting at sixteen is consistent with other changes and opportunities available to young people at this age. They can leave school, get a job, drive a car, and pay taxes. They should be able to have a say in political decisions that will directly affect them and their future.
“Ninety-seven percent of young people in Victoria agree that climate change needs urgent action. In fact, it’s their second highest political concern, just behind education.
“Politicians often ignore the power of young voters, but we know that this election, the future state government’s position on climate change will be front and centre.
“We stand behind the motion to lower the voting age to sixteen. Decisions to delay action on climate change put young people’s future at risk, but at the moment, they don’t have a say in how these challenges are addressed. This must change,” said Ms Nadel.
Nineteen-year-old Tiana Sixsmith from Swan Hill is one of the many young people who will be voting for the first time this year in the Victorian state election. She thinks young people’s concerns are not taken seriously enough by Australian politicians, and says they often underestimate the knowledge and maturity of people under 18.
“I can’t wait. I think being engaged in politics and having your political opinion is very important.
“Since high school I’ve been passionate about government involvement in rural youth problems like mental health, access to education, clean energy and climate change.
“This election I’ll be using my vote for politicians who will focus on future generations, looking after the environment and looking after young rural Victorians,” said Sixsmith.
While she is excited to make her voice heard, Sixsmith has a 17-year-old brother who has left school and is in full time employment. Sixsmith is disappointed he doesn’t have the opportunity to contribute to Victoria’s political future this election.
“He can drive, work full-time and pay taxes, but he’s not allowed to vote. Because he can’t vote, his political opinions are seen as not as valuable.
“Lowering the voting age has the ability to increase political engagement in future generations and give young people like my brother a say,” said Sixsmith.
More information on the Youth Enrol To Vote campaign can be found at Young: www.youngvotes.org
Read Environment Victoria’s submission here.
Cat Nadel, Environment Victoria Climate Campaigner
Office: (03) 9341 8166 Mobile: 0418 375 905