Sixteen year old Ballina student Indigo Grey has recently returned from the Youth Parliament in Sydney. She and her mum Natasha sat down with The Echo to talk about the experience, and Indigo’s ambitions for the future.
Indigo is currently in Year 10 at Xavier Catholic College in Skennars Head. She explained that the Youth Parliament (organised by YNSW) is made up of students aged 16-18 from electorates across NSW. The mock parliament is held each year in the actual NSW parliament buildings, alternating between the upper and lower houses. It’s been going for over 20 years.
After Indigo was accepted as the Youth Member for Ballina, she was placed in the Energy, Environment and Climate Change committee (she became the Youth Shadow Minister for that portfolio), with student parliamentarians being split into sponsors and refuters.
A just transition
Indigo became the lead sponsor for a bill she helped develop, called A Just Transition to Sustainable Energy Bill 2023.
‘Our bill related to a transition to sustainable energy that keeps in mind the needs of people as well,’ she said.
Indigo said her time in the Youth Parliament was preceded by a training camp about parliamentary procedures, then planning and designing the bill.
She said she’d only known one of the other students before, from climate rallies, but has made quite a new friends from the experience, including a young man called Alex who was representing Oatley. ‘We really clicked, we have the same sort of political views.’
Indigo says she has a particular passion for environment and climate issues, and is already involved with the Greens. ‘A lot of people in my family inspired me to pursue politics,’ she said.
Greens MLC Sue Higginson showed her the parliamentary ropes in Sydney.
Indigo Grey has already decided she wants to pursue politics as a career, either state or federal. ‘My plan is to go to uni in Sydney, and maybe work in an MPs office or become an intern in state parliament.
‘I’d love to work for Sue,’ she said.
So do your friends think you’re weird, or are they interested in politics too?
‘I have one friend named Riley. He’s quite interested in politics. But um, yeah, other than that, not really!’
To get more experience, Indigo is planning to apply for Youth Parliament again for the next two years. She says the climate situation is ‘pretty bad’, and has been personally affected by the recent floods.
‘Yeah, my dad, he lived in South Lismore and got wiped out by the flood.’ She thinks renewables are an important part of the solution, but much more needs to be done.
‘I’m pretty disappointed. I mean, the Labor government, they were criticizing the Liberals, before they got elected, for not doing enough for climate change. And it’s definitely an improvement… but I think if the Labor government is serious about climate change, they need to stop approving these coal mines.’
Right to protest
Another issue close to Indigo’s heart is the right to protest. ‘I think that’s a really important issue, as someone who’s participated in climate protests,’ she said.
‘In a democracy we should have the right to protest, to voice our opinions on things. The fact that governments are trying to take that away and limit that, I think it’s really awful.’
She’s recently joined the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and is also interested in groups like Extinction Rebellion. ‘I’ve been to a couple of their protests, yeah. I think they’re doing really good work,’ said Indigo.
‘Without protest, and putting pressure on the government, the government is free to do whatever they want, which is most often pleasing the big companies that donate to them.’
Natasha Grey says she’s really proud of her daughter’s growing interest in politics.
‘When I was her age, I wasn’t into this sort of stuff,’ she said. ‘I didn’t have that political awareness or interest. So yeah, I’m just proud that she’s passionate about it, and she’s got a clear goal for the future. She knows she’s got a voice and she’s making it heard.’
Mother and daughter have talked about the bad things that sometimes happen to women in politics, and in parliament. ‘It does scare me,’ said Natasha.
Indigo told The Echo, ‘Obviously, I’ve seen that it’s a lot more dangerous for women in politics than it is for men. If I can pursue a career in politics, I really want to do something about that…
‘In order to achieve equality, we need more women. We need more female voices in parliament. That’s one of the reasons I want to be there – so that I’m actually a voice that can speak up and call out things.’
‘Maybe by the time she gets in there it might have improved!’ said Indigo’s mum.