‘Shut up & listen to us!’ Youth Forum

A report written by AIS’ intern Sarah Dandurand –

Most kids growing up are told by their parents that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up as long as you try your best. The reality is that we live in a society where that just isn’t true anymore. People who are “Millennials” and “Generation Z” are living in a world where their voices are being stomped out by the older generations who find it easier to mute them rather than listen to them. To address this problem the Australian Intercultural Society alongside Victoria University hosted the Shut Up and Listen! Youth Forum. The panel consisted of Dilara Anaz a graduate student with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Temi Oladiji the President of the Victorian University Afro Society, Ashfaq Lukman a student advisor assistant at Victoria University, and Thelma Nascimento an international student from Latin America. The discussion was moderated by Kareem Al Ansary who is Australia’s UN Youth Ambassador for 2019. All of these panelists are part of the “Millennial” or “Generation Z” demographic. 

The discussion began with Kareem asking the panelists if they felt represented in the current Australian government. Temi gave a very short answer, “no”. Ashfaq, who is an international student from Sri Lanka, stated that “I feel like I’m being represented since I came from somewhere like the Middle East”. Thelma Nascimento said “I feel Australia is a very multicultural place but I feel they can have more representation in government”. Dilara stated that “I do not feel represented in a democracy… People can see through the lies of politicians. The short answer is no”.

From their the discussion continued on with Kareem asking what can be done to rectify this problem. Dilara stated that she believes a solution can be found by having parliament represent their constituents more: “More dialogue needs to happen between constituents and politicians”. Kareem then asked Temi why there is a lack of diversity in Parliament. Temi believes that “the lack of representation is caused by people not believing they can be in those positions because they don’t see other African Australians in Parliament. People settle for what they think is the highest they can achieve and that mindset needs to change. Parents need to encourage their children rather than hold them back no matter what their socioeconomic standing is… All the Africans in the room are sitting with each other. Because I look like you I’m gonna hang out with you, the mindset needs to change”. 

The discussion continued on from there discussing how the educational system lacks educating the current generation for the future. Thelma believes that the current educational institutions are not preparing people for the future and that “we are facing some of the biggest challenges in the world with social and environmental problems and the educational system isn’t preparing us for the future or the reality of the job market”. When asked if there was a way that can fix the fact that youth are underrepresented in Parliament Dilara suggested that the government can create an online discussion forum to promote communication between politicians and the younger generations: “young people can type in their concerns and it goes directly in the inbox of politicians”. She also suggested educating young people on politics, because “there is this negative stereotype where young people are young and dumb when it comes to politics so there is little to no communication between politicians and the youth and that needs to open up more. Young people need to be in politics more”. 

The 2019 Youth Forum touched on some very important issues that the youth of today are stuck trying to fix such as global warming, a dividing political climate, and inclusion. People such as these panelists are beginning the conversation to bridge the gap between the younger and older generations which will hopefully lead to a solution.