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Sensational World of Civics – Episode 4 – How can kids get involved?

Today's Exercises - Exclusive to Squiz Kids For Schools members

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

In the previous three episodes, we’ve explored how Australia became a country, why Canberra was chosen as the captial, why we have elections and how they work – and what our politicians actually do in that big building they call Parliament House. In this final episode, we’ll explain how YOU can become involved in our political process – and why it’s important that you do.

And to guide us on this journey – I’m delighted to welcome to the Squiz Kids hotseat Stephanie Smith, from the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra. Steph, welcome back!

 

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?

Host: “So Steph, today we are talking about how young people can get involved in our democracy and have their say, but we all know unless you are 18 you can’t vote. So how else can young people participate?

Steph: You are absolutely right Bryce! Voting is an important right in our democracy. There has even been talk about lowering the voting age to 16. I wonder if your listeners have an opinion on this?

Besides voting there are plenty of ways for young people to participate and have their voice heard in the conversation. This includes protesting. Many will have seen people of all ages out marching out on the streets with signs and banners drawing attention to important issues. You can also sign a petition or write letters to your local, State or Federal Member about an issue you wish to draw attention to. Depending on the issue will depend on who you need to contact.

So if you feel strongly about a something and you want our government to know about, any one can write a letter or contact their Federal Member, no matter how young they might be?

“Yes! That’s correct Bryce. Members of parliament are every citizen’s direct line to Canberra. That’s their job. They are elected to represent their community and be your voice in in our National’s Capital. So even as a young person you can have an impact on the decisions that governments make and even the sorts of things, they talk about by directly contacting them.

In fact, last year as part of the Raise our Voice, Australia’s Youth Voice in Parliament Week campaign young people across the country wrote responses to the question, What do you want Australia to look like in 20 years? Many MPs and Senators used their talking time to read out speeches in Parliament around many topical issues like equality, sustainability, women’s rights, health care and mental health.

WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME?

Is there anything young people can do within their school or local community to create positive change?

Bryce, there are so many simple ways young people can be part of creating a better world for all of us. Joining a community group is an easy one to assist others less fortunate. There are so many easy, little things listeners can do at home to contribute to creating positive change like reducing the amount of single and problematic plastics.

Like in our lunchbox?

Yes, this is a great starting point! Other simple initiatives might include planting more native plants to encourage wildlife, or making an insect home for your backyard. Upcycling tin cans, plastic bottles and jars helps reduce waste and can make for some interesting backyard projects. I wonder what creative ideas listeners can come up with to repurpose items from around the house to better support the environment.

What are some other ways kids can get political?

A simple way to share an issue you are passionate about is to wear your cause, this is such a fantastic, creative option Bryce like designing a badge, t-shirt, perhaps a piece of jewellery or perhaps an artwork. Clear, visual messages with a good slogan and design can be incredibly catchy to the eye. You might be interested in photography or writing, use your skills to help you share your message and connect with others.

BUT I’M JUST ONE PERSON!

Now while all of this sounds great – the idea of getting governments to do what we want sounds a bit overwhelming as well … We want to inspire our listeners Steph, do you have a specific example of a young person contributing to change.

I sure do Bryce! Many of your listeners will have heard of Greta Thunberg. A young person in Sweden who started a global movement by sitting outside Sweden’s parliament with a sign every Friday for months on end – until the politicians took notice. This then drew significant attention globally resulting in other people, young and old also protesting about Climate Change.

Greta is amazing … and an amazing example of what one single person – no matter how small she might be – can achieve …

There is also Molly Steer – the primary school girl from Cairns in Northern Australia who was only seven when she started a campaign to remove plastic drinking straws from Australian school tuckshops …. And just look at where that’s gone now …

You’re right – people and companies have completely changed their behaviour when it comes to straws … they use paper straws, metal straws, or perhaps don’t use a straw at all.

Yes! Many State Governments have now started to ban single-use plastics including cutlery and straws. This is such a simple change everyone can make to help support the planet and our wildlife.

I recently saw a student led initiative where they had designed and created a beautiful digital poster for a drawing competition. Students were invited to submit an artwork of a tree along with a $2 donation to support planting of more trees in the community.

SO, WHERE DO WE START?

That’s an excellent question Steph … where do young people start if they want to get political?

Start with your passions and issues which are important to you. It’s great to think about the big picture like sustainability, discrimination and equally but then bring it back to where you are. Create achievable goals. How can you make change in your classroom, school or local community? What can you do each day to be a better person and to support those around you?

Great ideas .. what else can kids do?

Do a bit of research – who is your federal member of parliament? Where is their office located in your local town? Is there an email address you can write to them at? Do they have a website or Facebook page which lists community meetings they will be holding? It’s important to know what issues they are campaigning about, but also what issues should you be telling them about.

I’m inspired – and I hope Squiz Kids are too … Thanks Steph, that’s been awesome.

Thanks Bryce! It’s been a pleasure … and I hope one day I get to meet some Squiz Kids down here at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra.

Well kids – that’s all we have time for. I hope you’ve enjoyed this special series on Civics … civics is the study of the rights and duties of citizens – and we are all citizens – you, me, Steph – everyone. Who knows: maybe one day you’ll grow up to work in Federal Parliament, maybe you’ll become Prime Minister? Just remember everything is possible, kids – because this country, and the democracy within it – belongs to you.

This is Bryce Corbett signing off – and reminding you all, as ever, to get out there and have a most excellent day. Over and out.