Students on the Moreland Council Team. Clockwise from top left: Sophie Bazzano, Baria Faraj, Mohammad Daghagheleh, Skye Griffiths, Hatice Kahraman and Zahir Ali.
By Matthew McDonald
Local Moreland students are pushing for increased civics education and free public transport in the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament.
The annual Youth Parliament program creates a space for young Victorians between the ages of 16 and 25 to be heard at the highest levels of State Government.
Two teams, representing Moreland City Council and Coburg High School, have each drafted a Bill that was handed to the state’s Youth Minister Ros Spence last week.
The Moreland Council team, represented by Hatice Kahraman (16), Baria Faraj (17), Mohammad Daghagheleh (17), Skye Griffiths (19), Sophie Bazzano (22) and Zahir Ali (16), tabled a Bill pushing for the Victorian curriculum to be updated to include mandatory classes on taxes, jury duty and voting.
The students fear that they won’t be able to assert themselves politically later in life without a baseline understanding of how government works.
“The problem is that young people don’t have the knowledge or background understanding to accurately engage with politics,” said Moreland student Skye Griffiths.
“COVID-19 has highlighted inequalities, a main one is the casualisation of the workforce which overwhelmingly affects young people.”
When taking these concerns to the ballot box, team member Sophie Bazzano said she and other young people are at a loss for what to do.
“I had never seen a ballot paper before. I cared about heaps of issues, but when it came to filling out who to vote for, I was so confused.”
The Bill proposes civics classes for year 9 and 10 students, with the aim of establishing a new generation of young people informed on democratic process.
The Coburg High School team, represented by Aidan Dawson (17), Angelina Barrett Correia (16), Harry Ciantar (17), Charlie Hobson (17) and Demita Floros (16), tabled a Bill calling for free public transport for students.
With a comprehensive plan to roll out free PTV passes to all Victorian students, local and international, the Coburg High School team expects to make education more accessible.
Coburg High student Aidan Dawson said that “public transport can add up as a big expense at the end of the year”. He said this money could be better used for school resources such as textbooks and computers.
The team worry that lower socio-economic communities are unfairly disadvantaged by high costs of public transport, particularly those who live further from school.
“Anything to break down systemic classism is a leap forward for Australia. It will be worth breaking down the economic boundary faced by many people,” team member Charlie Hobson said.
The Coburg team said they have enjoyed participating in Youth Parliament and learning more about political processes.
‘You don’t have to have a career from it, but just knowing and having conversations and contributing to small changes is beneficial,’ team member Demita Floros said.
Coburg High student Harry Ciantar said programs like Youth Parliament are vital to ensuring young people understand political systems.
“I feel like if people don’t have a knowledge on how laws get made, then we might make poor decisions on laws that are going to have a long-term effect on us,” he said.
Both teams said they would like to see a revolution in Australia where more young people are leading in the politics.
To date, over 30 Youth Parliament Bills have gone onto become Victorian legislation.