Civics education is key for a healthy democracy

Today Abigail spoke about the importance of civics education, and the vital role young people play in our democracy.

Abigail said:

On behalf of The Greens I speak to this motion and thank the mover for bringing what is a very important issue before the House. Civics education is vitally important for young people, as is the democratic and political participation of young people. Of course, young people are particularly affected by the long-term consequences of today's political decisions. They have a valuable contribution to make to our democracy and a clear desire to create positive change and have a say in the decisions that affect them. I have been lucky enough to attend countless School Strike 4 Climate rallies over the years, where I am constantly blown away by the sophistication of the ideas and the clarity of the political perspective on display amongst speakers and demonstrators alike. Young people have a strong desire to be involved in the political process and a strong basis in civics education is an invaluable tool for empowerment.

In 2022 I introduced the Electoral Amendment (Voting Age) Bill 2022 to the House, which intended to lower the voting age to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. Expanding the voting age is just one important avenue to allow young people to participate in our democracy. As I said in my second reading speech on the bill, democracy absolutely does not start and end at the ballot box, but without a vote you do not have a voice. One of the arguments against lowering the voting age is that young people are apparently not mature or capable enough to make informed decisions like adults. Not only is that completely incorrect, according to psychological research, but children and young people are not the only people in our society who could do with some civics education.

Just as it has always been Greens policy to lower the voting age, it has always been Greens policy to ensure that young people have access to civics education to help them to participate in our democracy. Young people deserve the opportunity to effectively participate in society as active and informed citizens. Schools should be empowered to equitably provide the opportunity for young people to develop necessary civic skills, contribute to discussions of real life issues and learn about the important facets of our democracy. Their education system should provide a foundation for a democratic society and for all people to be empowered to be involved in shaping societal key decisions.

I understand there have been some amendments put forward by the Government to the motion, which largely reflect a statement of what is the current status of civics already in the curriculum. That is why those changes have been made. I note that paragraph (d) seems a bit out of place and not really related at all to civics education. I have had a discussion with the Minister's office about that and I think it is fine to leave it in; it is just a very odd thing when it is not talking about civics, it is talking about making schools safe in line with the views of faith leaders. I do not know why it is in there, but I will not object to it.

To read the full debate, see Hansard here.

Join 50,459 other supporters in taking action