Voting at the service of the common good: Justice for young people in Australia

9 May 2022
Students of Marian Catholic College, Kenthurst with the College banner calling for climate action. Left to right Georgia Kelly, Charlotte Forbes and Isabella Charon. Image: Supplied.


Catholic Social Teaching (CST) impels us as members of Australian society to protect the sanctity of human life and dignity across all generations, including young people, and particularly those who are most vulnerable.

Young people represent the future demographic of the Church and wider Australia and bear the heavy burden of creating and leading the imagined, just future society. Hence, our urgent call to solidarity with young people has never been more important. If we truly believe each person is sacred and possess inalienable worth, our social welfare policy must reflect this.


What do we believe?

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child states that “…the youth should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.”

Young people should be equipped with the democratic, social, and financial tools necessary to tackle and navigate the turbulence of life’s challenges.

We believe that the time for action has arrived. Policy and legislation now possess the ability to either cultivate adversity or promote justice. Such political tools must be utilised righteously to champion the young voice and its needs. The Australian Government must protect “the now” to guarantee “a later” for young Australians.


What are the issues?

  • Climate – lack of urgency and action
    • The Coalition resists action on climate change, acting as a blatant lobbyist for the profiteering coal industry (as seen in the recent $15.4m subsidisation into the fossil fuel “growth centre”).
  • Education – hike in university fees and cuts in funding
    • Tuition fees rank as some of the highest in the global arena.
    • Funding for higher education will decrease by 3% in real terms from 2021-22 to 2024-25.
    • Fees for humanities subjects will rise by 113% as a part of a market-induced STEM policy.
    • Universities were denied JobKeeper.
  • Employment and housing
    • Two thirds of young people are unemployed or under-employed, COVID has disrupted job opportunities, with many youth employed in areas vulnerable to automation, and to volatile labour market shifts, shorter and irregular working hours.
    • Since 2004, household wealth for the under 35s has scarcely changed, while the wealth of older households has increased by more than 50%, due to the property boom, rise in superannuation assets, and major tax concessions.
    • Rental vacancy rates in some regions fell below 1%, with significant rental increases across the country.
    • Rentals are also being converted into Airbnb listings, adding to scarce availability, price inflation, and precarious accommodation options.


What are the effects?

  • Carbon levels are the highest they have been since at least 800,000 years ago, threatening the habitability of Earth.
  • Climate change has clear consequences for youth rights – to development, survival, equality, health and quality of life.
  • Long-term youth unemployment, the gig economy, stagnant wages, insecure jobs, cuts to penalty rates and casualisation have crippled possibilities for young workers.
  • Paternalistic deterrents in higher education have seen cuts to the liberal arts, pushing students into debt, undermining individual rights.
  • Budget cuts have impacted the quality of higher education curricula and staffing.
  • Rising property prices have put home ownership out of the reach of most young people (aggravated by the looming pressures of stagnant wages, precarious casual contracts, and crippling student debt).
  • The volatile, competitive housing market has forced young renters to deprioritise spending on food, education, and healthcare in order to keep up with rental payments.
  • The demographic pressure of an ageing population means there are fewer working-age people to subsidise the tax pool to fund future necessary aged care and pensioner health budgetary projects.


What do we want?

  • A Human Rights Act, as well as a Commissioner for Young People, to protect and enforce the rights of young people (cf, the UK Human Rights Act embedded in their legislative system).
  • Complimentary checks and balances to ensure formal accountability for policy and inequitable bills:
    • Clear protection of human rights in the Australian Constitution.
    • Legislation to deal with youth human rights violations.
    • A national Human Rights Action plan, focusing on young people.
  • A clear shift in climate policy
    • To ensure for young people a legislated and politicised duty of care on climate, which goes beyond carbon emission mitigation and promises innovative and sustainable energy adaption strategies.
  • Restructuring of education policy
    • To restore funding to the humanities to eradicate course bias and ease the doubled HECS debts of affected students.
    • To prioritise higher education funding for curriculum and research to improve student outcomes, ultimately improving the face of Australia’s future workforce and infrastructure.
  • Serious tax reform that not only prioritises production, savings, and investment, but values equitable market competition and positive business imperatives which boost labour creation and security.
  • Government commitment to public, community, and social housing, aided by budgetary policies to facilitate high density living in city suburbs and the possibility of home ownership for young Australians.
  • A review of the age-based tax incentives that are placing increasing burdens on working Australians.
  • Clear policies and legislation to counter wealth disparities, casualisation, wage stagnation, and long-term unemployment of young people.
  • An extension of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) or long-term wage subsidies to support the inadvertently affected young employees of businesses.
  • A nation-wide education and skills plan to boost job accessibility and workforce participation.
  • Rise in Jobseeker payments and youth allowance to enable young people to live with dignity and above the poverty line.


This is an excerpt from the document Voting from the Common Good, prepared by the Justice and Peace Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.  Download the full kit of social justice issues to consider at the 2022 Federal Election here.


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