In a few weeks, Australians will head to the polls for the 2019 federal election. And there’s one question that should be on every candidate’s mind: which way will young people vote?
What do young people care about?
We asked young people in YACVic’s networks, ‘When you go to the polls for the 2019 federal election, what will be the biggest issues on your mind?’
- ‘mental health’
- ‘Climate change. Education.’
- ‘Definitely fair pay and insecure work.’
- ‘mental health, safety (women’s in particular) and youth homelessness’
- ‘cost of living’
- ‘future jobs, future housing and healthcare’
- ‘Refugee and Asylum Seekers rights, more taxes for big companies, protecting inclusive and accessible education, pro-choice abortion laws.’
‘My big issues will revolve around the cost of living and lower taxes, a focus on climate change, focus on youth mental health (especially in regional areas), and transportation (public transport/highways/roads etc.).’–young person
- ‘Australia’s effort in the issue of climate change, xenophobia, improving education’
Young Australians have been making the headlines lately, showing they’re not waiting for adults to lead social and political change. Tens of thousands of students walked out of their classrooms to strike for action on climate change, and first-time voters aged 18 and 19 enrolled in great numbers to vote ‘yes’ in the 2017 marriage equality survey.
And this is only a fraction of the power young people can wield.
Young voters are shaking things up globally
Around the world, young voters are shaking things up, and political parties of all kinds are starting to realise the youth vote is critical. Just look at some of our closest neighbours. In 2018, Malaysia was rocked by the overthrow of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which had been in power for 60 years, replaced by a new government led by Mahathir Mohamad. Young people formed a powerful electoral block: 41% of Malaysian voters are under 40, and 80% of young voters backed the change in government, mostly driven by frustration about the economy, cost of living, and corruption. Meanwhile, an election is looming in Indonesia in April 2019, and all parties are frantically trying to attract young voters under thirty-five, who make up 40% of the electorate.
Further afield, young people played a big part in undermining the power of the Trump administration in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, when the Democrats won back a majority in the House of Representatives. Young voters aged 18-29 turned out at much higher rates than four years earlier, with two-thirds of them supporting Democratic candidates.
Meanwhile, in the world’s largest democracy, India, all eyes are on young voters, who in 2014 played a key role in toppling the long-dominant Congress Party government and ushering in the Bharatiya Janata Party. A new election is looming in 2019, and with high youth unemployment and an estimated 20 million young people turning 18 and becoming eligible to vote each year, all parties are desperate to secure the youth vote. Young Indians describe their biggest concerns as jobs, unemployment, and economic inequality.
Young people are engaging strongly with single-issue votes, too. Last year, there was a historic referendum in Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment, a law which had made abortion virtually impossible since 1983. Young voters aged 18-25 turned out in particularly high numbers, with 87% of them voting to support women’s reproductive sovereignty.
Four years earlier, the people of Scotland went to the polls in their own referendum: to decide whether their country should become independent from the U.K. Once again, young people’s votes proved significant. The youth turnout was strong, and 54% of voters aged 16-24 voted to remain with the UK. Young people were more likely to vote ‘no’ to independence than most middle-aged voters, and the final outcome swung their way.
We asked young people in YACVic’s networks, ‘What do you wish all politicians understood about young people?’
Here’s what they told us…
I don’t wish that politicians need to understand us further - I wish that we had more younger candidates to elect to all levels of government to provide a more equal three tier level of government with all age brackets being covered as they would understand us completely.–Robbie, 21, Ocean Grove
"That we also have opinions that should be listened to." (Elin, 18, Melbourne's outer east)
"Our voice and our activism is more important than they necessarily think. The young generation, especially uni students, make up a lot of campaigns, and without us on the doors, phones and recruiting more young people, the politicians might not do as well as they do. We can see the future coming – utilise that!" (Alicia, 19, Craigieburn)
"A greater desire to be inclusive, tolerant, and more communal is, I think, prevalent throughout our group." (Olivia, 17, Frankston)
The power of your vote during this federal election
Young Australians have a right to flex their electoral muscles too! If you’re an Australian citizen and you’ll be 18 by May 2019, check you’re enrolled to vote. If you’ve moved house, you can update your details here.
Not sure who your local member is, or which senators represent you? You can find them here!
And check out YACVic’s guide to messaging politicians, to bring about the changes that matter to you.