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    CALLING FOR CHANGE: Horsham youth councillor Bethany Arnup wants the voting age lowered to 16 or 17. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Wimmera youth join to put voting age under spotlight


Young leaders in the Wimmera are echoing the calls of youth around the world to lower the voting age. 

St Brigid’s College students and Horsham Youth Action Council members Bethany Arnup, 15, and Scarlett Munday-Terry, 14, believe voting in elections should be an option when they turn 16. 

This comes after Wales became the second country in the United Kingdom, after Scotland, to lower the voting age to 16 and 17-year-olds at the start of the month. 

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In Australia, Greens Federal Parliamentary leader Adam Bandt introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to lower the voting age in October, 2019. 

But many political leaders have questioned the viability of lowering the age and many assertions and inquiries made in both state and federal parliaments in the past remain stagnant. 

Bethany and Scarlett believe having younger voices in the political process is key to addressing issues that would ultimately affect them in the future. 

Both are passionate about politics and interested in having their say about matters including the environment, equality and providing more spaces for youth in Horsham. 

“If 15 and 16-year-olds are mature enough to get a job, why aren’t the mature enough to vote?” Bethany said. 

“People say 18, because they’re adults and adults are mature enough to vote, but I think it depends on the individual – there could be 16-year-olds  who are way more mature.” 

Bethany said political decisions made now would affect younger generations in future. 

 “It shouldn’t just be restricted to adults. Younger people are growing up with the decisions that older people make,” she said. 

“When I applied for the youth council, I said the environment was my biggest interest. With global warming, pollution and people littering, if we don’t care about our planet there won’t be one to grow up on.”

Scarlett said she believed if Victorian schools taught politics earlier in the curriculum students would be more prepared to vote. 

“I feel if we could learn politics younger then we could be ready to vote earlier,” she said. 

“Being in the youth council has allowed me to be a bit ahead in what we do in a political sense as we learn about the government.

“If we had the choice to vote I think we would research it more, so we could understand it more.” 

Scarlett said she believed diversity of opinions was important in the political process. 

“They don’t have to take on all of our ideas. But if they can figure out where we’re thinking from, I feel like it could help us in the future,” she said. 

“That’s really important, because if we’re not happy with something we should have the voice to say it.”

Horsham teacher and councillor Alethea Gulvin was in a similar position to Scarlett and Bethany in her youth. 

Cr Gulvin said she first stood for Horsham Rural City Council four years ago, aged 22, and was arguably one of the youngest councillors in the state.

“I don’t think me being young makes me less intelligent than someone older than me,” she said. 

“I don’t think age is always relevant, so long as you’re informed and you can contribute, that’s all you really need.

“The age of restrictions in voting depends on the individual. Some people develop earlier. Some might be more informed at an earlier age or have more worldly experiences.”

Cr Gulvin said having a range of opinions was crucial for government bodies in making policies. 

“Diversity is important in our world – we’re craving diversity and equality. I think everyone should have the right to have a valid say if they’re informed about what they’re doing,” she said. 

“You need to have lots of different perspectives to have a productive end result.”

The entire June 24, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire June 24, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!