AQ: Australian Quarterly

Young people, political knowledge and the future of Australian democracy

Yet irrespective of the age at which they are able to vote, a young person must understand the Australian system of politics and its electoral system to be prepared to confidently participate in the democratic process. The current problem is that many young Australians may not possess such knowledge.

In 1973, the voting age in Australia was lowered from 21 to 18. The decision to reduce the age of franchise received bipartisan support and reflected the broad mood of the electorate. The arguments at the time centred around the fact that 18 year olds were able to drive, marry, work, pay taxes, and serve in the armed forces, so should therefore have a say in who was running the country.

Those who supported lowering the voting age to 18 also presented young Australians as being quantifiably different from previous generations. As Opposition Leader Billy Snedden put it, young Australians in the 1970s were ‘better informed, better able to judge, more confident in their judgements, more critical in their appraisals, and on

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