Right before Australia hit the polls on 2 July, Ashley Thompson asked under 30s at Newlife Uniting Church’s Heartbeat Conference what policy decisions they would champion given the chance.
Let them stay
The plight of refugees and asylum seekers is a contentious issue in the Australian political arena but in the eyes of Grace (13) and Iram (12) it’s simple: “We have so much room here but they only take some,” says Iram, “we could easily take way more to help.” Grace agrees, “We’ve got a big country and could provide for them.”
While in reality the matter is more complex, youth leader Jo (26) agrees with Grace and Iram and is proud of how the church is speaking out on this issue in the public space. “I’m really happy to know this is an issue that the Uniting Church advocates strongly for,” says Jo.
“I think that we as Australians have a long way to go in acknowledging refugee’s needs and respecting them as people.”
Protect our privacy
Alastair (18) could fill a book with his thoughts on global politics but one issue that has him riled up more than any other is our right to privacy.
He argues that while we may not be United States citizens all of our data passes through American servers where the National Security Agency can download and record any piece of information, often, in Alastair’s opinion, “without good enough cause”.
“So even though we’re not American nationals or under their government, we can still have our rights infringed upon in this way.”
Love one another
Far from quaint, loving our neighbours and caring for poor was by far the most popular response to what young people would champion if they were in charge.
“Open our hearts and open our doors”, says Lote (18).
“Politicians have all the money and power in the world and yet they don’t choose to share that with people who are less needy than others,” says Kyle (17).
“There is more than enough food for everybody in the whole entire world and yet there are people dying of starvation every day,” adds Alice (14).
Close the gap
Elouise (16) gets fired up about the inequality between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians who she says don’t have the same start to life “as we do”.
“We start life with our parents who generally have a house already, they have their lives set-up and they have secure jobs,” says Elouise. “[Indigenous Australians] don’t have the same opportunities, I’d close the gap.”
Newlife Uniting Church youth and children’s pastor, Mike Hands (27) believes all these issues are rooted in apathy—and that if he was prime minister of Australia he would work to “help people understand how practical small steps actually make a big difference”.
“I think the world is an incredibly selfish and apathetic place,” says Mike. “When you think about all these issues, our stances on them have more to do with how it affects us rather than how it might affect the other person.
“It doesn’t sound sexy or romantic and it’s not going to win any political campaigns but if you could work out some way to alter selfishness or apathy you would solve half or most of the world’s problems.”
“A lot of the time we get paralysed by the immensity of these problems when what we need to do is to empower people to take small, easy steps.”
For more information visit the Heartbeat Conference website.