We heard a number of times that the election this year was going to be the most important election for young people. That our votes would not only shape the parliament for the upcoming term, but also determine how we tackle critical issues that impact our generation in the immediate future - climate action being at the top of that list.
Now that we know that the Labor government will take Australia forward for the next few years, there has been great rejoice from young people at the prospect of change, and a shift from policies, and approaches that we have seen, and been disappointed about in the last few years. Equally, and unsurprisingly, there is also a number of young people wary about campaign promises, and if they actually will come into fruition.
Let's focus on the good first.
As a first-generation South-Asian migrant, who has grown up in Australia, diversity and representation is all that I have yearned for in my leaders. This election has led to eight culturally, and linguistically diverse MPs elected to the House of Representatives. The names of Dai Le, Cassandra Fernando, and Sally Sitou are putting smiles on faces of young people of colour from every walk of life. To be more representative of Australia's rich multiculturalism is what we desired, and although this is an incremental change in the grand scheme of Australia's demographic, it has been a welcomed.
When speaking to a year 11 student in Sydney's south-west during a student leadership conference this week, seeing this representation is said to have been "real change", and produced emotions that "made them feel like politics was an option for them in the future".
The increase in Greens and independent seats has also been a case of great relief for young people. Young people have shown clearly that they value impact-oriented, and immediate actions when it comes to climate policies, and a strict deviation away from any advocacy for coal and mines. We don't need to look any further than the climate change rallies, and school strikes that have been powerful across the country which were majorly organised and led by young people. It is safe to say that the decisions the new government make on youth-related issues such as the cost of living, mental health, and climate policies will be looked at very closely by young people and youth-led advocacy groups.
On the other side, there has been a stern call for accountability of the promises that were made during the campaigning.
As a UNICEF Young Ambassador, one of the call to actions we have been calling for has been in establishing a National Youth Advisory Council, in which young people from diverse communities and lived experiences are given the autonomy to be part of the decision-making at a federal level. We are calling for a bridge between the prime minister, and young people to ensure that they have communication that flows all the way down to grassroots communities, and that concerns of young people are acknowledged with actions, and strategies that include young people throughout the decision-making, and execution process.
In the last day of registrations for voting enrolments, we witnessed over 700,000+ registrations, and most of them coming from 18 to 25 year olds. Young people have shown that they are politically engaged, and taking action through the nation's democratic process. That should be respected by the government, and be given the importance that it merits.
Whether in metro, regional, or rural Australia, young people are demanding accountability from the government.
Our generation has shown that we are not a disengaged group. Young people know what matters to them, and they are the best interpreters of the social determinants that impact them.
Will we witness complete satisfaction from young people with the decisions that will be made by the new government? Certainly not. Youth advocates and youth-led groups will continue to put pressure onto the government to stay accountable to their promises, and ensure that the priorities that were outlined, and that garnered the votes from young people, become a reality, and not a political ploy to get young voters for tokenistic reasons - a situation young people are all too familiar with.
The future is exciting, and from all the young people that I have been able to speak to in my community there is a greater sense of hope that has arisen as a result of the elections. This is one of the most important elections our country has seen as we approach the difficult hurdle of climate change, and unprecedented situations in the near future. We are calling for collaborative leadership, and one that takes into consideration the diversity of needs from what Australia is all about.
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