The inclusion of youth participation and representation in the decision making process, either directly or indirectly affecting the direction of Australia and issues relating to youth, is paramount. Engaging and empowering the voice of the growing youth population will ensure the future leaders of Australia are informed and educated in the importance of effective decision-making.
Based on the 2006 Census and age population projections identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the total population of Australia in 2010 is 21,991,011 with 11% of the population falling between 18 and 25 years of age. High school leavers and first time voters in 2010, who were born in the 1990’s and who are commonly referred to as Gen Y, are the first Generations of Australians who have never known a world without mobile phones or the internet.
Social norms and ideals have dramatically shifted over the past four decades, increasingly over the past ten years within Australian society. Increased modes of accessing information and engaging networks across cyberspace have bred a generation and subsequent generations who are technologically cultured, well educated and socially minded due to their ability to access information and networks from across the globe.
The role of young people in decision-making in today’s society has evolved from being a silent by-stander to becoming an influential voice with calculated, articulated conviction. Whether in school, the workforce or in everyday life, young people are encouraged to have an opinion and voice their concerns. This ability to communicate and debate should not be limited to the school yards and street corners of society but encouraged to participate at all levels of decision-making. Diversity in decision-making offers differences of perspective, positive debate and outcomes. Supporting and engaging this young generation is important to the positive growth of society, empowerment through inclusive decision-making.
Australian youth play significant leadership roles throughout Australia, including School Representative Councils at local, state and national levels, national youth forums, mentoring organisations and the continued maintenance of cultural practices including Indigenous culture, supporting and driving community initiatives throughout urban, rural and remote Australia. Encouraging participation in youth leadership and representation in decision-making arenas builds confidence in the individual participants and confidence in decision-making processes, knowing that as an Australian we have the ability to influence the direction of our Nation regardless of heritage, race or age.
Encouraging and supporting youth leadership is a form of succession planning for the future of Australia’s government and future leaders across society. Participation in the decision-making process at the highest level will build awareness of Government processes and policy, which will equip the next generation with the tools to build on the platforms laid by their predecessors. Youth participation limits the influence of short-sighted policy and provides a longitudinal view to the direction of Australia and its place on the world stage. Cross- generational collaboration and direction, provides the opportunity to share knowledge and offer guidance to future leaders.
A Young Indigenous Australian with leadership aspirations, Madeleine Madden has been named 2011 National Youth Week ambassador following her 24th October 2010 Address to the Nation in which she called on all Australians to help end disparity between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous key indicators of Health, Education and Employment.
Could this be the new direction for Australia Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd alluded to in his 2008 Apology Speech:
“A new beginning, a new partnership on closing the gap with sufficient flexibility”
Youth leadership in the pursuit for Equality and Reconciliation.
The importance of youth representation in decision-making is not based on their growing population or their technological understanding but rather based on their continued contribution to Australian society and acknowledgement of the trust we place in them to build on our legacy and the ongoing success of our Nation and future generations.
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