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Young people should be given the tools to become 'active citizens'



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  Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Deputy Parliamentary Leader and Senator for South Australia Australian Democrats spokesperson for Youth Affairs

Press Release Dated: 24 Mar 2000 Press Release Number: 00150nsd Portfolio: Youth Affairs 

 

Young people should be given the tools to become ‘active citizens’   Young Australians should be encouraged to become actively involved in the democratic process, according to Australian Democrats Deputy Leader, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja. 

Senator Stott Despoja made the call today while delivering the keynote speech at the Civics and Citizenship Education Conference in Adelaide. 

The Senator says many young Australians feel they are unable to change their society, and consequently they have little interest in politics or protesting. 

“The lack of interest of young people is more a reflection of their lack of skills in speaking up and creating change than their desire to have a say and effect change.” 

“The skills involved in being an ‘active citizen’ are like many other skills - the more familiar a person is with them, and the more practiced, the more likely they are to use those skills effectively.” 

“Knowledge of the levels of Government; the roles, structures and procedures of the legislature, the Executive and the judiciary; and the system of electing governments are all important.” 

“But being an active citizen is not simply knowledge of these processes.” 

“It is also about having the confidence and the motivation to act on the knowledge, and the necessary education to ensure that all Australians can play a part in society.” 

Senator Stott Despoja says Civics education - and Civics teachers - have the opportunity to build the confidence and motivation in young Australians. 

“Rather than just teaching Australian school students to ‘discover’ democracy, we should also be teaching them to ‘do’ democracy.” 

“The opportunities to ‘do’ democracy are many - ranging from ensuring SRCs don’t just amount to a few hand-picked prefects, to making the effort to include all students in school decision-making processes, and to encouraging young people to make active contributions to their non-school communities.” 

“It is our role as citizens to ensure that our democracy is robust, and that Governments are accountable to the people they represent.”