A Letter to Pauline Hanson, Who Thinks I'm Too Stupid to Vote


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A Letter to Pauline Hanson, Who Thinks I'm Too Stupid to Vote

The Government is happy to take teenagers' taxes, but not their opinions on real issues that affect them.

Earlier this week, I watched in amazement as Senator Pauline Hanson appeared on Sunrise morning TV, claiming young people "don't have any idea" about politics. I was speechless. Her attempt to justify increasing the voting age to 21, because we've apparently "never held a job" or "paid any taxes"—and therefore "have no understanding of politics"—shocked me.

So, Senator Hanson, I wanted to pen you a letter, to show you the level of political understanding a 14-year-old can have. I want to let you know that young people are watching. We do care. And you should be afraid.


The reason young people haven't held jobs or paid taxes isn't by choice. It's because we can't. We can't find jobs, because study absorbs our time and employers seemingly want 20 years of work experience by the time we graduate. We're locked out of the housing market—and not because we splurge on avocado toast, but because older generations have made it increasingly difficult to get a foot in the door.

Without a voice or vote, it becomes even harder for already disenfranchised young people to speak up and access their rights. In the political environment, young people are stereotyped as ignorant, entitled or uninterested in democratic participate on. We're accused of apathy and ambivalence, for not caring enough, for not speaking up, but meanwhile labelled as aggressive and unruly when we do.

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Politics is confusing enough without being sent contradictory messages about when we qualify as "adults" in the eyes of the government and the value of our political participation.
In NSW, 16-year-olds can give sexual consent but cannot vote on issues such as abortion. We can work, and pay taxes (yes, Senator Hanson, we do legally have to pay taxes) to a government we do not have the power to elect. We are expected to contribute to a government, yet endure politicians and policies we cannot change.

People under the legal voting age have opinions that matter and our political choices—if given the opportunity to make them—will have far-reaching consequences into our own futures. When we fight for change on issues that matter to young people, such as marriage equality, abortion, university fees and mining policy, we fight for all Australians. If human beings die as a result of global warming, Senator Hanson, you are going to die too. Our world is your world too.


Young people bear the brunt of climate change and the mistakes of the generations before us. We also have to wear the consequences of decisions made today by predominantly middle-aged, upper class, heterosexual white men. Here is our true inheritance—we have to clean up the huge mess otherwise known as Australian politics.

Young people are "apathetic" and "cynical" toward politics because we've been ignored for too long. We have disengaged with the democratic process and government decisions because no one has listened to us. Because people under 18 don't have a right to vote and therefore a right to shape the laws and policies that shape our lives, we don't feel heard. We are disregarded and shunned at every single step of the democratic process as ignorant, entitled millennials who don't know anything about politics.

Read more: Pauline Hanson says young people are too stupid to vote.

And you want to prevent us from participating in the democratic process for a few more years?

Politicians speak of the passion to make a difference. You speak of putting Australian needs first. You speak of listening to the Australian people. Why, then, is the Australian youth being stifled? How can you address political issues if you refuse to let those impacted take part?
Why don't you ask young people from Kununurra their thoughts on education? Or what it feels like when the government cuts Centrelink payments for a single parent family? Or what it's like to be an Indigenous teen? Maybe ask young people about their concerns about one day owning a home, or finding a job that pays more than minimum wage?

Australia needs to hear more from our young people, not less. We are fighting to change the world of today, and the future we will live in. Our future is your future too. I hope you'll realise this and start to genuinely listen to the voice of young people.

Senator Hanson, I want you to know we have a very good idea of the political process. There is plenty we need to discuss. We can add to the debate. In my role as a Youth Ambassador for Save the Children this year, I've talked to a lot of fierce young people who are opinionated, passionate and want to see change on youth issues. I've talked to scary kids who are sick of being ridiculed, ignored and unheard by a government that claims to have its citizen's best interests at heart, but seems to forget its most important demographic—young people.

I am a scary kid too. And I want to be heard.

Melissa Li is 14 years old and lives in Sydney. She is a Youth Ambassador for Save the Children.