YOUTH VOICE: Local Students Need a Political Voice

Posted on July 29, 2010 by


I propose the establishment of an Albury-Wodonga Student Politics Club, to enable students to debate political and social issues that are important to us.  In so doing, we can attract the attention of parliamentary members and press them to take their responsibility for acting on behalf of young voters in parliament seriously.  The club will give valuable practical experience to the students involved so we can become leaders in our community.

Caught up in the current media whirlpool, students and youth across our tertiary education spectrum are increasingly being ignored and becoming discontented with the world of politics. In regional Australia, the divide between regional and urban students demonstrates again another barrier for rural youth to become fully participative in political discussions. With the majority of open forum discussions and contact with political representatives being conducted in city centres, it is obvious that the extension of the democratic process to voice concerns to parliamentary representatives is being deprived to our regional students.

Effectively, the views which youth acquire in relation to policy are didactically enforced upon our students through expensive media campaigns, which indeed to an extent insult the intelligence of young voters, particularly so near the next federal election where many students will be afforded the right to vote.

Despite the fanciful campaign measures taken by political parties, the concerning fact at hand is that the decisions impacting regional students across tertiary sectors are made by individuals located in urban centres. The consultative measures which both State and Federal Governments undertake have considerable limits, those confined to our city centres.

In our Albury-Wodonga region, students at university campuses are being deprived the privileges to advocate their concerns in relation to policy that directly affects them. In a review of recent history, the televised debate between both the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott is indicative of the failure of government to harness the values and opinions of not only the student population, but the views of regional students.

As presented in an article entitled ‘What this election should be about?’ (Sydney Morning Herald, July 28 2010), Glyn Davis opens definitively with the simple statement that “Elections are a celebration of democracy…”.  Relating back to the televised debate that took place, policy details surrounding these two concerns were only superficially dealt with, hardly a celebration of democracy. Australians hoped to view serious debate on key policy issues determining the future of our nation, rather they were provided with a segment attempting to advertise political leaders.

It is this common disregard that State and Federal Governments now have for the constituency to which I believe calls for the establishment of a youth political club in the local Albury-Wodonga Region. For too long have student youth been subjected to tireless advertising campaigns and denied the democratic opportunity to have their say in policy creation. In response to Glyn Davis’ comment on the celebration of democracy at elections, I would have to say that it is almost non-existent in the local community. The time has come for students and youth alike to stand and present their opinions on both the Australian political system and to make ourselves known to our urban counterparts.

Following the announcement of an array of policy commitments by both sides of government for the upcoming federal election, it is disheartening to realise that the engagement of public response has been primarily from urban centres, recently in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide to name a few. Where are our politicians in scoping the intellectually informed opinions of our rural students? Why does there appear to be an element of scarcity for politicians to approach our regional populations and to understand their desires and opinions about how our country should be shaped? The answer seems to be that our politicians in office are both scared and ignorant of regional students, regional populations and regional opinion.

I propose that through the establishment of an Albury-Wodonga Student Politics Club, students in our local region may take the first steps to attracting the attention of the politicians to listen to a regional voice. Not only will this club enhance the public speaking and presentation skills of the students who are involved, but also allow them to draw the attention of both local State and Federal Members of Parliament to represent them in houses of Parliament.

For many of the students, elections occurring in the later half of 2010 will be their first time in the ballot box casting their vote for Australia’s future. The solemn plea I have to students in regional and the Albury-Wodonga Regions is to not forget that the vote they cast will be as important as that cast by their counterparts in the city. By establishing the Albury-Wodonga Student Politics Club, we can share in the debate on issues topical in politics and in so doing, attract the attention of parliamentary members so they understand their responsibilities of acting on behalf of young voters. Together, the power of students in our Albury-Wodonga region can make a difference on both a local and national level.

Martin Dickens is a first year Bachelor of Arts student at La Trobe University’s Albury-Wodonga Campus. Having lived in the local region all of his life, Martin is thoroughly interested in Australian Politics and is a member of the Young Liberal Movement. He was formerly the 2009 College Captain of Trinity Anglican College Albury and has been involved in numerous community activities, as well as acting as a United Nations Youth Delegate for Regional Youth Summits.

The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.