At the launch of the V4i Kitchen Table conversations, Ben McGowan's speech struck a chord which resinated with me. He mentioned that in the last election, only 77% of people aged 18-24 were enrolled to vote.
This made me ask the question: Why are so many young people not enrolled to vote? Some may shrug off the $50 fine and be done with it. Some may just not have a clue on where to start. Arriving at the polling location on election day, being shoved a handful of ‘Vote for me’ flyers, overwhelmed by all the little boxes on the voting forms….. Anyone may think this is all too much and quickly rush in, tick a box and get out and go on with their daily lives.
Reflecting on my own knowledge of politics stems from a year 5/6 school camp to Canberra, visiting Parliament House. This was a good 15 years ago and I probably recall more about the visit to Science Works than Parliament House itself.
It wasn't until the opportunity of a visit and tour of the Victorian State Parliament on Spring St, Melbourne two years ago, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment of how the Australian political system worked. Of course I picked up bits and pieces in the media, but the understanding of local, state and federal members started to make sense.
Here in the north east, we hear terms in the media such as ‘Member for Indi’, ‘Member for Murray Valley’, ‘Member for Local Council’, In relation to where we live, how does this all relate to me, who represents what issues where and how does this apply to locally, state and federally?
Do people in the 18-25 age brackets understand the voting system here in Australia? Unless people took political studies at high school or have been actively informed by their parents and guardians, how does a first time voter become informed about politics? My assumption of young people voting knowledge is based on my past experience however this may ring true to the low number of people not enrolled to vote. I confess that I am still not 100% absolutely clear on some things relating to the voting process for example the Senate, House of Representatives beyond our local member. I have visions of large red and green rooms and an overwhelming voting sheet with lots of names!
During the 2010 election, I recall the radio station, Triple J, ran a campaign called 'Rock Enrol'. This was to encourage young people to enrol for the upcoming election. I haven't seen anything similar to this for this election as yet, though this was a good way to target an engaged group.
So, to all the younger voters out there: if you knew more about Australia’s political system and how it would relate and affect your future, would you be more inclined to make an informed vote and are you enrolled to vote? And to all the ‘Baby Boomers’, do you talk to your kids, young friends and family about Australia’s voting system?
Let’s start the conversation!