One vote: one Australia
Engagement in the Australian electoral system is lowest in Australians aged 25 years and under, whether it be through informal voting or not voting at all. This statistic is even more severe when narrowed to Indigenous Australians. For Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to walk together as one Australia, it is critical for young Indigenous people to be educated and empowered to want to vote and truly have their voice heard.
Indigenous Australians continue to experience a huge level of disadvantage in our society. Living in Australia’s eastern capital cities often masks the disadvantage and struggle that our Indigenous peoples still face. Too often we city residents overlook this. Instead, focusing on that next important meeting, the email that just came through or talking or texting on your hand held device. It’s not until you get out to more remote areas such as the Northern Territory that you fully comprehend the impact white Australia continues to have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, even putting the atrocities from years ago aside.
Australia is a great country and our democratic system is one of the strongest in the world, but until our traditional owners are truly heard, truly represented and truly listened to, our democracy will be far from perfect. Our Parliament is designed to not only represent the majority, but also the minority, which is why it is critical that everyone from the city to the community has an informed opinion and exercises their right and obligation to vote. This is not something that will happen overnight, but as Indigenous representation continues to increase in our parliaments, our democracy must only become stronger.
We have come a long way since the referendum in the 1960’s which gave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the right to vote, but we still have a long way to go.
Tom has just been awarded the KPMG National Chairman’s Citizenship Award for 2014 for his work with the Queensland Youth Parliament and National Indigenous Youth Parliament program.
These programs provide leadership and community engagement opportunities that target disengaged or at-risk young people in Indigenous communities and remote areas of Australia.