YOUTH VOICE: An Uncertain Future

Posted on June 15, 2011 by


As a citizen of Generation Y, the current Australian political landscape does little to instil a sense of inner hope for a prosperous and sustainable future. This uncertainty has been reinforced considerably after recent developments in the media in the past week. Initially, it was senior Labor member John Faulkner’s scathing comments against the mechanics of his own party that led Australians down a path of doubt and scepticism. At the annual Neville Wran Lecture held in Sydney last week, Faulkner attacked ALP party procedures, stating

‘Dissent is contained behind closed doors. All potential embarrassment is avoided. I see it rather as a symptom of the anaemia that it draining the life from the Australian Labor Party, an apparent aversion to the unpredictability of democracy.’

Adding heat to the argument, Faulkner openly criticised the party’s reliance on focus groups and it’s abandonment of actual party members. As a concerned young person, to witness these comments on the censorship of party dialogue and the ALP’s toxic culture leaves both me and other youths questioning the future of democracy and its institutional foundations in Australia.

The Monday night broadcast of Q&A (13 June 2011) on ABC TV featuring Bob Katter, Peter Garrett and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells posed significant questions concerning party ideology and social outlook. Whilst the one hour talkback segment quickly became dominated by Queensland patriot Bob Katter’s unbearable voice, the inability of either Labor representative Garrett or Liberal’s Fierravanti-Wells to escape the narrow ideological confines of their parties was, to say the least, troublesome. The prevalence of outdated ideological ideas could be seen prominently when issues such as climate change and the Northern Territory intervention were raised by members in the audience. As Garrett tried hard to sell Labor’s “Price on Carbon” and Fierravanti-Wells fought back against this “unnecessary tax”, not at one moment did either member consider the youth point of view.  For the youth of today, there is no greater concern in the realm of politics other than the looming threat posed by climate change.  By Fierravanti-Wells failure to even acknowledge the impact of climate change and Garrett’s use of the natural dilemma to only attack the popularity of the opposition, where does the concern for the electorate’s well being even stand?  An immediate response to the climate dilemma by climate scientists is forecasted to take approximately 20 years if immediate action was taken from this year. So, will I be stranded with the responsibility of telling my children that it was their grandparent’s generation who, due to their ignorance and careerist ambitions left their natural environment irreversibly destroyed? From this week’s political events, the answer to me would seem YES!

Furthermore, as a current regional university student born and bred in the country, the minimal attention paid to social concerns in rural areas by politicians creates significant anxieties over the security of essential services. This sense of nervousness is justified following a recent report released by the Grattan Institute on future investments in regional centres. In this report, trends reflected from research conducted suggest that it is inner regional locations such as Albury Wodonga that are and will continue to experience low growth levels in comparison to major coastal centres. When confronted with complexities associated with infrastructural development, the study contends that infrastructure will only accelerate economic growth on the proviso that there is a critical mass of population and high levels of education. Whilst the federal governments of the past must be given credit for assisting the development of tertiary establishments throughout regional Australia, both the Grattan Institute and current state and federal governments have failed to allocate any thought as to how attitudes towards education may be changed. From personal experience, it is clear that the socialisation of regional children places far less emphasis on the need for education in comparison to the need for employment.  By realising that this is a dangerous ingrained cultural norm, the government has a responsibility to overcome this mindset by implementing early intervention strategies in curbing education rates of regional youth. In the advent of a rapidly developing knowledge based economy, maintaining these outdated visions poses great risk to not only the survival of regional centres, but also promoting equitable social standards across the population.

Overall, it is evident that governments on all levels need to become accountable for their actions, incorporate a level of foresight in policy decisions and to act responsibly in accordance with the demands of the constituency. Whilst many people of today believe Generation Y is incapable of understanding both the decisions and actions of government, let me assure politicians that there are many of us who do. We will not rest or become complicit with the entrenched prejudices and corruption that is incorporated in the party system. In fact, it is Generation Y’s discontent with the current political system which signifies a growing challenge to the Australian political landscape and the residing members of parliament should be prepared for this.


Martin Dickens is a Second Year Bachelor of Arts Student studying at La Trobe University’s Albury Wodonga Campus. He is currently the President of the Political Awareness Club and holds a strong interest in both Australian politics and international affairs. He has served as an acting delegate for the United Nations Regional Youth Summits and was recently awarded the Deans Prize First Year for the most outstanding student in the Bachelor of Arts. Martin is also interested in education policy and regional development in terms of infrastructure and service delivery.

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