Young People In Tasmania Have The Power To Decide The Election

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The seats of Braddon and Bass in Northern Tasmania are ones to watch in the upcoming election.

Both the Coalition and Labor are spending large chunks of the campaign down south to win over voters in these seats.

As the campaign has been unfolding you might have seen Anthony Albansese and Scott Morrison pulling beers and walking around manufacturing plants as they show face and hear from the local constituents.

But there’s a part of the community neither party seems to be listening to in the fight for the election; and that group is young people.

There’s a new generation of voters living in Braddon and Bass that are being impacted by youth unemployment, limited access to housing and an overwhelming feeling of local MPs not addressing key issues that matter to them.

Currently Bass has the highest promise of spend per voter and it’s more than just a marginal seat. It’s actually nicknamed the ‘ejector seat’ as only one sitting member has been re-elected since 1993.

However, beyond the political promises, the needs of young people seem to remain invisible in this campaign. One of the biggest issues impacting young people across the country is housing and yet it hasn’t been a key talking point over the past 5 weeks.

The housing crisis in terms of rental affordability or first time home ownership is something experienced by most young people across Australia, but this issue is hitting particularly hard down in Tasmania.

I spoke with Freya, a young woman studying at the University of Tasmania who is working two jobs to support herself whilst studying. Despite having two forms of employment, she is currently living in her van due to being priced out of the rental market.

“It’s pretty expensive so I’m actually living in my van at the moment because I couldn’t afford rent for a while. My van just broke down actually so it’s a bit of a struggle,” Freya told me.

Not being able to secure housing is an experience shared among many young people across Tasmania.

Joe Browne moved down to Tasmania from Sydney for university and he has seen his friends struggle to find a place to call home.

“I do have quite a few friends who are either between places or they are in a car which happens fairly frequently.”

“One of my really good friends has been in and out of our house because they just couldn’t find a spot and it took us over six months to find somewhere which was ridiculous,” Joe said.

Outside of the city centres and on the farm lands this issue rings true for young people working in the agriculture sector. Tom Suttor is a beef farmer who has also found it difficult to secure housing.

“There’s a housing crisis especially for young people and it’s getting out of hand. For plenty of people it’s pretty hard to find rent, you know we were looking for a house around here in Delerane and it’s pretty hard to find a house,” said Tom.

Another key issue that has been absent from the election campaign is youth unemployment. Despite the Coalition boasting the lowest unemployment figures we’ve seen in decades it’s a significant issue in Tasmania.

Currently youth unemployment sits at around 14.8% for people aged between 15-24 years old, which is more than triple the national average.

Education is a barrier young people face to entering the workforce as 50% of Tasmanians of working age are functionally illiterate. Tasmania is also the most digitally disadvantaged state in the country and this fosters an informal employment network.

The pandemic has limited the opportunities for young people to be out in the community, and this limitation coupled with the digital disadvantage has compounded the issue of young people getting access these informal networks. This is because they haven’t been able to get out into the community to fall into certain jobs which has created another barrier to joining the workforce.

Tania Hunt is the CEO of YNot, the key advocacy group for young people in Tasmania. She noted that transport is also a barrier for young people seeking employment.

Cost of living and access to housing in the city centres pushes young people out to suburban areas where housing is somewhat more available. However there is limited employment in these areas and the lack of transport infrastructure means young people have to commute into the city for work. At times the only transport available is a coach which runs limited services and is expensive.

These pressures can be overwhelming for young people and impact their overall university experience. Emma is a student at the University of Tasmania who is studying education, she said “I’m trying to work out where I can now work because I probably need a third job as I can barely afford things at the moment.”

“It’s hard to try and work with uni and then trying to find time to actually do that and have time to have a social life.”

For Lucy, who is studying law at university, access to services and environmental action are the key election issues that will decide her vote.

She shared with me that “a major issue right now is getting access to mental health services and Medicare.”

There is a mental health crisis across Australia and access to mental health support in Tasmania is limited. The mental health system here has been described has “on the brink of collapse” with many young people needing to travel to the mainland to access the support they need.

For Tania, who works and advocates for young people at YNot, she believes the federal government and major parties are not meaningfully engaging with young Tasmanians.

“They’re not willing to hear what young people have to say. They know that young people have many amazing solutions to the challenges that they experience and all they need is an opportunity, a platform and mechanisms to have a voice.”

Tania believes that ultimately if the programs and policies that are being proposed by either parties are to work they need to meet the needs of young Australians and engage with them in a meaningful way.

Young people in the seats of Braddon and Bass have the power to sway the outcome of the federal election. The countdown is well and truly on as we tick off the days until we head to the polls but until then it’s now up to both major parties to listen and act if they want to win the votes of young people in these key seats.