Teenagers get a bad rap in the media – self-absorbed, argumentative, lazy, withdrawn, social media obsessed, irresponsible – but I’m here to tell you, as a young person, that the kids are alright. In fact, more than alright. I advocate that given the opportunity, we’d do a better job of leading than the ‘adults’ in the job currently (looking at you, Scott Morrison).
I am 16, and have lived in Byron Shire for 12 years. I love, and am so proud of this passionate, vibrant community. Our people have shown me the power of social activism – to stand up and hold ground. I have learnt to fight for what is right, both individually and socially. However, I feel disillusioned with those in power – their lack of honesty, transparency and action for equality. I often wonder what the world would be like if young people had a voice and a platform to enact social change. What action we would take, and why?
I asked for a little help from my friends via an Instagram survey (social media can be used for good!) seeking to better understand what other young people care about and what change they want to see in the future.
They responded with a passionate plethora of ideas, ranging from solving global hunger to authentic government in Australia.
My friends told me what mattered most to them, which included worldwide issues like LGBTIQ+ representation and gender equality – ‘Feminism does not mean women are better than men and should be more privileged, it’s the belief that all humans should have equal political, economic and social rights’ (Sienna).
Others focussed on national issues such as support for Indigenous Australians and closing the income gap: ‘I strongly believe that closing the gap is an important part of how our country grows moving forward’ (Oliver).
Some stated that welfare issues like domestic and family violence support services, and drug and alcohol assistance for young people need to change. Daisy advocated for animal welfare: ‘I would love for veganism to become a normal thing… It would help the environment and have a huge impact on saving animal lives’.
Time for action
My friends want a better and sustainable future. More than 100 young people told me they wanted the Australian government to take action on the climate crisis.
This issue isn’t unique to Byron Shire, with over a million students attending climate strikes around the world in September. My friend Gigi from Sydney was one of those and contributed this: ‘Our government refuses to put holds on our national fossil fuel emission levels because of the financial benefit… we struggle to see the adversity that faces us in the future’.
Young people everywhere are speaking out and standing up.
It’s not too late
What do I want? Not to live in a world that is burning and on the edge of extinction. I would like to live in a world where politicians prioritise serving the people over serving themselves, where we are all treated as equals, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, socio-economic status, beliefs, age or disability. I want to see a world where inner heart is valued over outer appearance. A world that values kindness above all else.
I hear my friends when they tell me they are scared for their future, for humanity, for the planet. I believe it is not too late. I believe we can stand, as one, and make beauty out of uncertainty. However, we need you to listen. We need you to hear our voices, our rallying cries, and take action.
The fires are burning. The planet is warming. The oceans are higher and hotter than ever before. For many, a sense of hope is dying. But we, as young people, have a message: we believe in change. We believe in our future. It is time to change the story: we are passionate, engaged, progressive and we are brave.
We will take direct action. We will fight for our future and for our planet. We will continue to take to the streets, to pressure our politicians, to strike for our hope. This is not about politics. This is about people – about us. And our future is now.
I invite all young people to engage in social action and shape our future. Join School Strike for Climate, Sea Shepherd, and Clean Coast Collective. Join together for change.
♦ Anjali was an Echo Publications work experience drudge.