6 Community Organisations Supporting Young People Participate In Australian Politics
More than ever, there has been growing support for youth involvement in public decision-making and politics by youth-led and community-run organisations, with many acknowledging the current lack of diversity in current Australian politics as explored in my previous blog post on Empowering Youth Participation in Australia Federal Politics.
Getting stuck into #auspol can be overwhelming and intimidating, but thankfully organisations like the 6 being highlighted in this post are here to uplift and empower young Australians interested in making a positive difference in the community by getting involved in public-decision making, policy-making, and starting their political careers.
1. Raise Our Voices Australia (ROVA)
Through its workshops and training programs ROVA is working to increase the presence of young female and non-binary voices leading the conversation in politics, domestic and foreign policy.
Its recent Youth Voice in Parliament campaign received 603 submissions, partnered with 46 MPs and 22 senators across the political spectrum who all agreed to read out loud a 90-second speech in Parliament. Young people under the age of 21 responded to the question ‘What do you want Australia to look like in 20 years?’ You can watch some of those speeches being read out in Parliament here. The campaign’s second phase provided participants with a series of practical resources and tools to support their continued political participation across a range of key policy issues via free online workshops with leading organisations and subject matter experts.
2. The Foundation of Young Australians (FYA)
FYA is an Australian non-profit organisation that has been backing young people with the trust, resources, skills, and connections to create change for over 40 years. It believes young people have the power to beat injustice and transform the future.
Its programs like Youth Media Centre, YLab and Research & Policy Program are dedicated to helping young people interested in improving their skills and knowledge of advocacy, grants, movement building, and youth-led co-design and range from campaigning skills, media training, to research and policy programs.
Ripple is a unique platform that specifically curates early to mid-stage leadership, career, grant, work experience and scholarship opportunities for young people. Ripple is passionate about supporting young people to harness their agency in the political system and help them to drive social change through their careers and communities too.
Its intensive 6-week Emerging Civil Leaders Program is dedicated to inspiring and teaching participants core community building, leadership skills, creative problem solving, and media training. The program provides young people with the unique opportunity to create real change within the community and meet with public decision-makers like the Mayor.
Fun fact: the platform was created after its founders met at the Obama Foundation’s Asia Pacific leaders program.
Founded in 2003, Oaktree is the largest youth-run development agency in Australia, supporting youth empowerment, education and leadership projects across the Asia-Pacific region. Oaktree is an Australian-based, NGO and its purpose is to:
- create a more just world where all people have the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their circumstances.
- to ensure that young people can stamp their voices across the policies and decisions that affect them;
- create innovative solutions that will impact our collective future.
Oaktree is run by young people aged 16 to 26, and overseen by an advisory board. Oaktree realised that poverty is a symptom of greater injustices, notably a lack of opportunities and decision-making power for young people.
Oaktree builds the capacity of diverse young Australians to create, demand and lead change by transforming hundreds of Australian students, campaigners and volunteers into agents of change through two key programs the Student Ambassadors Program (SAP) and the Campaigners for Change Program (C4C).
SAP is a capacity and knowledge building leadership program for students in grades 10-12. C4C works alongside SAP as an advocacy and leadership capacity building program for young people aged 17-27.
1. Not Too Young To Run
Not Too Young is a non-partisan, not-for-profit on a mission to improve political participation, representation and civic engagement amongst young Australians. Its core goals are to:
- make civic information accessible to young people,
- create new opportunities and pathways for young people to engage in the political eco-system,
- equip young people with the skills and support to run for political positions.
Its 6-week Not Too Young to Get Elected Program supports participants with the knowledge, courage and resources to run. Participants are walked through branding, speech writing, policy discussions and get to hear directly from professionals leading national political campaigns and past program candidates. It’s supported 18 candidates in local Victorian Council elections.
6. Run for it Australia (RFIA)
RFIA is a youth-led organisation focused on uplifting and integrating the voices of young people into our current political system. It believes the way politics is currently being run isn’t future-focused and doesn’t have the best interests of future generations in mind. Their solution to fixing this issue is by involving young community leaders from historically marginalised communities to fully engage in the political system and be part of setting a fair and bold agenda for the future.
RFIA’s work is centred on encouraging and supporting young people with fresh and progressive ideas to run successful and strategic campaigns to win power and create a better kind of politics in Australia. RFIA does this by:
- Training young leaders who are ready to stand up and take on election campaigns as candidates and community organisers.
- Supporting young candidates with the resources to get elected.
- Increasing the number of young people voting and actively engaging in elections
RFIA has supported 15 candidates in local NSW elections.
This wasn’t an exhaustive list of all the community organisations and programs doing amazing work supporting youth participation and engagement in politics. If you know of a program or initiative we missed, let us know in the comments!
If you’re a young person who’s decided to run in an upcoming election, good luck! It’s easy to feel intimidated, but it’s important to remember that:
You don’t need:
- Special qualifications to run for office. As a citizen of this country, you have the relevant lived experience to be doing the job. It’s important that our policy-makers and decision-makers understand the experiences and views of normal people, and what better way to gain that insight than from firsthand experience?
- To be ‘older’ or middle-aged to run for Parliament. According to Parliament, you just need to be 18.
- To have previous political experience. It’s important to remember that the business of politics is people; it’s about our society and the issues that affect our daily lives. If you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on in your community/ the country, are listening to the different views that are being shared, and aren’t afraid of doing a lot of paperwork and reading – you have all of the experience you need.
If you care about:
- ✅ your electorate and the lives and livelihoods of all people in your community;
- ✅ wanting to make a positive difference;
- ✅ the future of all Australians;
our society wants and needs you in politics, helping to shape policy and legislation that benefits all citizens.
Your voice is needed in Parliament to reflect the views of regular, everyday Australians who care about urgent national and international priorities that have been ignored for too long. Because that’s what our Parliament is supposed to be, a representative democracy. Representing the views of all Australians, not just the perspective of a powerful few that have the loudest voices and the deepest pockets.
If you’re a young person reading this, I hope to see your name on my ballot preferences during our next elections.