Mt Alexander Net Zero Working Group member, Heather Cummins, interviews students from CSC.
Heather: “Tell me about Vote 16! Campaign”
Sally: “Well, as Castlemaine Secondary College students we’re launching a VOTE 16 campaign: we’re campaigning for an ‘opt-in vote’ to ensure voice for people aged 16 years and over.”
Will: “It doesn’t make sense to us, that if we have to pay taxes, if we’re allowed to be out driving on our roads, that we’re not allowed to vote.”
Sally: “It’s been a while since the huge School Strikes for Climate and we became excited by the idea of forming a new movement, this time within our school setting.”
Orvokki: “We’re choosing to start an in-school action as we value education, and we want to demonstrate that.”
Heather: “What’s your main motivation for wanting 16 and 17 year olds to have access to vote?“
Orvokki: “Definitely climate.”
Sally: “Yeah, young people are more worried about the climate, we don’t have anything to gain from delayed climate action, and we’ll be the ones worse off and affected for longer by the effects of climate change.”
Orvokki: “We’re hoping that by introducing the idea of optional voting to our school community and beyond, we’ll attract SS4C kids, who are already passionate but don’t have a voice, as well as encouraging new people to engage with the issue. We want to play a role in paving the way for people to actively seek out information and get involved.”
Heather: “What are your first steps?“
Sally: “So far we’ve had a meeting with Susie Burke, well known and long-time environmental activist and advocate for young people’s role in climate action. Susie gave us some great ideas for steps to lift it off the ground.
Orvokki: “She got us to have the confidence to invite press to the launch and to start reaching out to others in the climate movement for ideas.”
With Castlemaine being the birthplace of the Australis SS4C movement, there is plenty of local knowledge to draw on. As a starting point, the group plans to connect with former CSC and school-striker student Niamh O’Connor, who is now working with AYCC and Sunrise movement.
Heather: “Tell me about the launch.”
Will “ Well, the launch is tomorrow. We’ve got people busy making Vote 16 biscuits, screen-printing campaign t-shirts and printing fliers. We’ll be out of uniform as a visual representation of the campaign. That’s our way, and we’re encouraging other schools to plan their own campaign statement.”
Orvokki: “ We want the launch to help educate the school community about our current voting rights in Australia. Othercountries have optional and mandatory voting, so it’s possible we could here too.
Sally: “ We also want to attract students into the movement and build general environmental engagement. There’s a lot we can do within the school environment: planting native vegetation, campaigning on litter. These are activities that will build an engaged community of kids who care and make a difference, who are able to use their voice for change.
Heather: “How do you plan to capitalise on the energy you’ve built up, post-launch?“
Sally: “We feel strongly supported by CSC leadership, who are really encouraging this creative engagement, and we know we can build something strong within our schools.
Will: “Next steps will involve reaching out to local politicians, for example Lisa Chesters, and potentially one day we’d like to take the campaign to Canberra!”