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Current Opportunities and Challenges for Active Citizenship in Australia for Young People

Current Opportunities and Challenges for Active Citizenship in Australia for Young People

Young people in Australia are often lauded as the future’s ray of hope, as the ones who would protect democratic institutions and advocate for improvements in social and environmental policies, among other things. They are exposed to a pervasive risk discourse as well as a variety of procedures that are geared to regulate and manage them rather than to learn from or empower them. Australia’s current culture, like that of the rest of the Western world, is heavily influenced by popular culture and the media (Chadwick, Dennis, & Smith, 2015, p.22). Traditions and social structures that formerly influenced individual experience and identity have practically evaporated. While it is still believed that one’s identity is inherited and derived from one’s role, family, or social status, identity has come to be understood as the consequence of a self-created, autonomous, individualistic, and introspective process. Even as young Australians continue to find their life purpose and identity, they are becoming more ignorant in maters relating to governance due to poor political involvement. The role of institutions such as the government in enhancing the civic participation of young people is increasingly hampered by factors such as poor use of digital platforms and restrictive policies that do not openly support their active citizenship desires.

One key challenge is that young people lack interest in politics and have low knowledge of governance prompting very low levels of civic participation. Parliament of Australia (1999) note that a majority of Australians, especially young people, do not have political knowledge. Low levels of interest in governance and poor knowledge of politics are associated with poor government strategies to enhance active citizenship (Laughland-Booÿ & Ghazarian, 2020, p.191). For example, young people are culturally programmed to avoid political involvement, even in critical issues such as the recent Australian climate issues resulting in wildfires and the effects of COVID-19. As a consequence, young people are increasingly depicted as being threatened by the outside world, which is troubling. In the media, they are shown as being in immediate risk (Hyland-Wood et al., 2021, p.3). As possible risk sources, they are seen to hold the key to the future, whether in a positive or negative light. 

Another major challenge facing young people is that the media and society has stereotyped them as high risk, disinterested, and completely disconnected from societal affairs. As a consequence, Cranley et al. (2018, p.177) found that this narrative has allowed current and past regimes in governance to ignore young people’s need for participation. For example, in the wake of COVID-19, the participation of young people in matters relating to governance was very low as noted by Churchill (2021, p.784), despite young people being less affected by the coronavirus compared to older adults. It has also created an attitude amongst young people and a culture of minimal political participation. The young have always been subjected to both good and negative stereotypes. On one hand, young people are often seen as a source of future hope. On the other hand, people believe that young people are a possible danger to the future of the country. As a result, modeling perceived threats provided by young people and supporting steps to minimize such risks have become normal practice for policies that have an impact on young people’s lives, such as educational policy.

Key ways to ensure active participation of young people in governance and politics in Australia is through information, engagement, inspiring them, and ensuring that they remain present by actively involving them via localized social media channels. Here, policies must remain open to listening to young people’s views. A recent example of how this would work is the way New Zealand youths have engaged young people in determining whether the legal voting age should be lowered to 16 (Eichhorn & Bergh, 2021, p.508). Such discussions should transition to Australia in order to have more civic participation. An opportunity emerges through digital platforms, for example via government websites, Facebook pages, and open forums. Young people are present through social digital platforms (Cranley et al., 2018, p.178). The government, in its role to inspire, engage, and ensure participation, must engage young people using digital media. By regulating disinformation, misinformation, and fake news, the government will increase information reach for young people and engage them to an active status.

Another opportunity emerges in the availability of information through critical education policy and best practices. Cranley et al. (2018, p.178) reports that there is a widespread notion that young people are unaware of their country’s governance policies, resulting in a slew of inquiries about their civic and political conduct, as well as their views and aptitudes for civic participation. Several studies have shown that youth are disengaged and uninterested, that they lack key civic and political knowledge, and that they contribute less to society than older citizens (Parliament of Australia, 1999; Ozalp & Ćufurović, 2021, p.237; Yeung et al., 2008, p.66). When it comes to solving this apparent democratic deficit, education is often mentioned as a possible solution and a key opportunity. Therefore, civic education is a requirement in order for the Australian government to enable active citizenship from its youthful population.

Governments’ attempts to forestall future threats to democracy and other comparable processes must include building the civic participation skills of young people. Recent efforts such as the Youth Policy Framework by the Department of Education Skills and Employment (2022) to support young people in navigating life must be adopted into governance and civic participation. There is considerable concern about civic stability and cohesion, the fragility of democratic regimes, and the general public’s lack of political participation on the part of young citizens (Yeung et al., 2008, p.67). A variety of factors have contributed to this trend, including issues of inclusion in Australia, climate change risks, deterioration of economic stability, among other challenges (Peterson & Bentley, 2017, p.43). Individual democratic engagement is a crucial component of current public policy in Australia as well as in other regions of the globe.

In conclusion, considerable government policies on citizenship education, as well as means to put those policies into effect, have been created in Australia and comparable countries during the past decade, as well as steps to put those policies into effect. The bulk of this activity is still motivated by the belief that schools must do more to address young people’s apathy, despite a wealth of data demonstrating that they are everything but apathetic about their lives. This discussion adds social digital platforms to the key opportunities that the government should employ to ensure better participation of young people in Australian politics and governance.

References

Chadwick, A., Dennis, J., & Smith, A. P. (2015). Politics in the age of hybrid media: Power, systems, and media logics. In The Routledge companion to social media and politics (pp. 7-22). Routledge.

Churchill, B. (2021). COVID‐19 and the immediate impact on young people and employment in Australia: A gendered analysis. Gender, Work & Organization, 28(2), 783-794. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7675267/

Cranley, L., Johnson, G., Robinson, C., & O’Connor, D. (2018). Belonging, being and becoming active citizens. Asia Pacific Journal of Advanced Business and Social Studies, 4(1), 176-82. Available at https://apiar.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/1_ICAR_Nov_BRR706_Bus-1-7.pdfDepartment of Education Skills and Employment. (2022). Australia’s Youth Policy Framework. Australian Government. Available at https://www.dese.gov.au/australias-youth-policy-framework

Eichhorn, J., & Bergh, J. (2021). Lowering the voting age to 16 in practice: Processes and outcomes compared. Parliamentary Affairs, 74(3), 507-521.

Hyland-Wood, B., Gardner, J., Leask, J., & Ecker, U. K. (2021). Toward effective government communication strategies in the era of COVID-19. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8(1), 1-11.

Laughland-Booÿ, J., & Ghazarian, Z. (2020). Young People and Politics in Australia: an Introduction. Journal of Applied Youth Studies, 3(3), 189-192. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43151-020-00025-1

Ozalp, M., & Ćufurović, M. (2021). Religion, Belonging, and Active Citizenship: A Systematic Review of Literature on Muslim Youth in Australia. Religions, 12(4), 237. Available at https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/12/4/237/pdfParliament of Australia (March 23, 1999). Creating the Active Citizen? Recent Developments in Civics Education. Available at https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp9899/99RP15

Peterson, A., & Bentley, B. (2017). A case for cautious optimism? Active citizenship and the Australian civics and citizenship curriculum. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 37(1), 42-54. Available at https://doi.org/10.1080/02188791.2016.1142424

Yeung, P. H., Passmore, A. E., & Packer, T. L. (2008). Active citizens or passive recipients: How Australian young adults with cerebral palsy define citizenship. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 33(1), 65-75. Available at https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.931.7100&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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Current Opportunities and Challenges for Active Citizenship in Australia for Young People

Young people in Australia are often lauded as the future’s ray of hope, as the ones who would protect democratic institutions and advocate for improvements in social and environmental policies, among other things. They are exposed to a pervasive risk discourse as well as a variety of procedures that are geared to regulate and manage them rather than to learn from or empower them. Australia’s current culture, like that of the rest of the Western world, is heavily influenced by popular culture and the media (Chadwick, Dennis, & Smith, 2015, p.22). Traditions and social structures that formerly influenced individual experience and identity have practically evaporated. While it is still believed that one’s identity is inherited and derived from one’s role, family, or social status, identity has come to be understood as the consequence of a self-created, autonomous, individualistic, and introspective process. Even as young Australians continue to find their life purpose and identity, they are becoming more ignorant in maters relating to governance due to poor political involvement. The role of institutions such as the government in enhancing the civic participation of young people is increasingly hampered by factors such as poor use of digital platforms and restrictive policies that do not openly support their active citizenship desires.

One key challenge is that young people lack interest in politics and have low knowledge of governance prompting very low levels of civic participation. Parliament of Australia (1999) note that a majority of Australians, especially young people, do not have political knowledge. Low levels of interest in governance and poor knowledge of politics are associated with poor government strategies to enhance active citizenship (Laughland-Booÿ & Ghazarian, 2020, p.191). For example, young people are culturally programmed to avoid political involvement, even in critical issues such as the recent Australian climate issues resulting in wildfires and the effects of COVID-19. As a consequence, young people are increasingly depicted as being threatened by the outside world, which is troubling. In the media, they are shown as being in immediate risk (Hyland-Wood et al., 2021, p.3). As possible risk sources, they are seen to hold the key to the future, whether in a positive or negative light. 

Another major challenge facing young people is that the media and society has stereotyped them as high risk, disinterested, and completely disconnected from societal affairs. As a consequence, Cranley et al. (2018, p.177) found that this narrative has allowed current and past regimes in governance to ignore young people’s need for participation. For example, in the wake of COVID-19, the participation of young people in matters relating to governance was very low as noted by Churchill (2021, p.784), despite young people being less affected by the coronavirus compared to older adults. It has also created an attitude amongst young people and a culture of minimal political participation. The young have always been subjected to both good and negative stereotypes. On one hand, young people are often seen as a source of future hope. On the other hand, people believe that young people are a possible danger to the future of the country. As a result, modeling perceived threats provided by young people and supporting steps to minimize such risks have become normal practice for policies that have an impact on young people’s lives, such as educational policy.

Key ways to ensure active participation of young people in governance and politics in Australia is through information, engagement, inspiring them, and ensuring that they remain present by actively involving them via localized social media channels. Here, policies must remain open to listening to young people’s views. A recent example of how this would work is the way New Zealand youths have engaged young people in determining whether the legal voting age should be lowered to 16 (Eichhorn & Bergh, 2021, p.508). Such discussions should transition to Australia in order to have more civic participation. An opportunity emerges through digital platforms, for example via government websites, Facebook pages, and open forums. Young people are present through social digital platforms (Cranley et al., 2018, p.178). The government, in its role to inspire, engage, and ensure participation, must engage young people using digital media. By regulating disinformation, misinformation, and fake news, the government will increase information reach for young people and engage them to an active status.

Another opportunity emerges in the availability of information through critical education policy and best practices. Cranley et al. (2018, p.178) reports that there is a widespread notion that young people are unaware of their country’s governance policies, resulting in a slew of inquiries about their civic and political conduct, as well as their views and aptitudes for civic participation. Several studies have shown that youth are disengaged and uninterested, that they lack key civic and political knowledge, and that they contribute less to society than older citizens (Parliament of Australia, 1999; Ozalp & Ćufurović, 2021, p.237; Yeung et al., 2008, p.66). When it comes to solving this apparent democratic deficit, education is often mentioned as a possible solution and a key opportunity. Therefore, civic education is a requirement in order for the Australian government to enable active citizenship from its youthful population.

Governments’ attempts to forestall future threats to democracy and other comparable processes must include building the civic participation skills of young people. Recent efforts such as the Youth Policy Framework by the Department of Education Skills and Employment (2022) to support young people in navigating life must be adopted into governance and civic participation. There is considerable concern about civic stability and cohesion, the fragility of democratic regimes, and the general public’s lack of political participation on the part of young citizens (Yeung et al., 2008, p.67). A variety of factors have contributed to this trend, including issues of inclusion in Australia, climate change risks, deterioration of economic stability, among other challenges (Peterson & Bentley, 2017, p.43). Individual democratic engagement is a crucial component of current public policy in Australia as well as in other regions of the globe.

In conclusion, considerable government policies on citizenship education, as well as means to put those policies into effect, have been created in Australia and comparable countries during the past decade, as well as steps to put those policies into effect. The bulk of this activity is still motivated by the belief that schools must do more to address young people’s apathy, despite a wealth of data demonstrating that they are everything but apathetic about their lives. This discussion adds social digital platforms to the key opportunities that the government should employ to ensure better participation of young people in Australian politics and governance.

References

Chadwick, A., Dennis, J., & Smith, A. P. (2015). Politics in the age of hybrid media: Power, systems, and media logics. In The Routledge companion to social media and politics (pp. 7-22). Routledge.

Churchill, B. (2021). COVID‐19 and the immediate impact on young people and employment in Australia: A gendered analysis. Gender, Work & Organization, 28(2), 783-794. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7675267/

Cranley, L., Johnson, G., Robinson, C., & O’Connor, D. (2018). Belonging, being and becoming active citizens. Asia Pacific Journal of Advanced Business and Social Studies, 4(1), 176-82. Available at https://apiar.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/1_ICAR_Nov_BRR706_Bus-1-7.pdfDepartment of Education Skills and Employment. (2022). Australia’s Youth Policy Framework. Australian Government. Available at https://www.dese.gov.au/australias-youth-policy-framework

Eichhorn, J., & Bergh, J. (2021). Lowering the voting age to 16 in practice: Processes and outcomes compared. Parliamentary Affairs, 74(3), 507-521.

Hyland-Wood, B., Gardner, J., Leask, J., & Ecker, U. K. (2021). Toward effective government communication strategies in the era of COVID-19. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8(1), 1-11.

Laughland-Booÿ, J., & Ghazarian, Z. (2020). Young People and Politics in Australia: an Introduction. Journal of Applied Youth Studies, 3(3), 189-192. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43151-020-00025-1

Ozalp, M., & Ćufurović, M. (2021). Religion, Belonging, and Active Citizenship: A Systematic Review of Literature on Muslim Youth in Australia. Religions, 12(4), 237. Available at https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/12/4/237/pdfParliament of Australia (March 23, 1999). Creating the Active Citizen? Recent Developments in Civics Education. Available at https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp9899/99RP15

Peterson, A., & Bentley, B. (2017). A case for cautious optimism? Active citizenship and the Australian civics and citizenship curriculum. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 37(1), 42-54. Available at https://doi.org/10.1080/02188791.2016.1142424

Yeung, P. H., Passmore, A. E., & Packer, T. L. (2008). Active citizens or passive recipients: How Australian young adults with cerebral palsy define citizenship. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 33(1), 65-75. Available at https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.931.7100&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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