2 August 2021: An initiative aimed at strengthening trust and better representing young people in our democracy will be facilitated by the University of Canberra, later this month.
Connecting to Parliament is a collaboration between the University’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, Ohio State University, the Australian National University and Federal Member for Canberra Alicia Payne.
The collaboration will see two town hall events with Alicia Payne MP held on 14 and 15 August, which will explore how to improve the representation of young people in Australian politics.
Project lead and Associate Professor at the University of Canberra, Selen Ercan said the events would create the perfect environment for citizens to connect with parliamentary representatives and feel heard.
“It’s wonderful to engage with the participants of the deliberative town halls and listen to their frustrations, hopes and creative solutions related to Australian democracy,” she said.
“Our research, through interviews with the participants of deliberative town halls, has revealed a huge appetite among ordinary citizens to experiment with new ways of doing democracy in Australia.”
The average age of parliamentary representatives in Australia is 52, representing a generational gap between those members and young voters.
Fellow project lead, and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre, Nick Vlahos said this event would look at several ways to address that gap.
“Lowering the voting age is one potential avenue for advancing youth inclusion and representation in formal political affairs, but it is only one,” he said.
“Having a discussion on this topic is meant to touch upon some of the main challenges that youth experience today, but what remains to be determined is whether or not formal politics – ie. voting – or greater youth representation in Parliament, are the means to solve these issues.”
Representatives from the Institute for Democratic Engagement and Accountability (IDEA) at Ohio State University have been guiding the University of Canberra in how to organise the event for the Australian landscape.
Deputy Dean (Research) of Australia and New Zealand School of Government, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australia National University, Professor Ariadne Vromen, has been a keen partner of the project and said it would be beneficial for young Australians.
“We are at a time in history when young people have never been more educated and connected, but are also less likely than ever to be able to obtain a secure job, affordable housing, or have savings and/or superannuation,” she said.
“This project shows the importance of including and representing the views and lived experiences of young people within policymaking, and presents this as an issue of intergenerational equity.”
Alicia Payne MP, who will be meeting with participants across the town hall events, said she is passionate about deliberative processes and increasing trust in democracy from the Australian public.
“Young Australians will be impacted by the decisions of the current Parliament for many years to come, but currently have no formal voice in that decision-making,” she said.
“I want to hear from Canberrans – particularly young people – about how they think young people can be better represented in Parliament.”