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Thursday, 10 August 2017
Plebiscite Potentially Damaging to Young People and Missing their Voice says YMCA Australia

Plebiscite Potentially Damaging to Young People and Missing their Voice says YMCA Australia

The YMCA says a plebiscite to determine the fate of marriage equality in Australia could damage young people’s mental health, as well as exclude their voice if they are not enrolled to vote within the next two weeks.

“The politicians of Australia are again shutting their ears to the voices and needs of young people on the issues that matter to them,” said YMCA CEO Melinda Crole.

Research by the YMCA earlier this year revealed (74%) of Australians aged 13 – 22 don’t believe those in power are making the best decisions possible for the future of young people.

Of the issues that are important to Australia’s youth but feel they aren’t being heard on, 86% felt unheard on the issue of marriage equality. These findings were a key reason behind the YMCA taking such a passionate public stance through its reinterpretation of the Village People song with Boy George’s cover of YMCA.

“Equally, we’re incredibly concerned about the effect an anti-marriage equality campaign could have on our young people’s mental health,” continued Melinda.

Research on the impact of the 2015 Irish referendum showed 80% of people felt upset by campaign materials and 75% reported that the campaign had a negative impact on young LGBTQI people and those from same sex parented families (Dane et al 2016). During this time, some young people reported feeling so anxious they could not leave their homes.

“Young people have overwhelmingly told us that their voices are not being heard in decisions made by governments, institutions and employers that affect their lives. A plebiscite allowing little time to enrol young people to vote, and the inevitable negative campaigning, is just another example of this.

Young people are invited to visit whynot.org.au to send those in power a digital letter on the issue that matters most to them, including marriage equality.   And urged to enrol to vote with the Australian Electoral Commission by 24th August at www.aec.gov.au to ensure their voices are heard.

Leading up to the 2016 Federal Election nearly 350,000 or 50% of 18 year olds were not enrolled to vote. And young people aged 18 to 25 remain the most underrepresented demographic on the electoral roll with 18% of that age group not enrolled to vote.

With voting papers to be mailed to individuals currently on the electoral roll on September 12, unless young people enrol with the AEC in the next 2 weeks– they will potentially miss out on the opportunity to vote. Given that a postal plebiscite will be non-compulsory this may make young voter turnout even more difficult, particularly as many young people change their residential address more frequently than older voters.

YMCA Voices of Young People in Australia Report 2017