Meet the young South Australians pushing to lower the voting age

A national campaign led by two Adelaide teenagers is lobbying the Government to let 16- and 17-year-olds vote in elections and referendums.

Jun 30, 2023, updated Jun 30, 2023
Make It 16 co-founder Archie Coppola. Photo: Make It 16/Sam Biddle.

Make It 16 co-founder Archie Coppola. Photo: Make It 16/Sam Biddle.

Year 11 student Archie Coppola is one of two young people in South Australia behind a campaign to lower the voting age called ‘Make It 16’.

Co-founded last year by Coppola and recent high school graduate Tabitha Stephenson-Jones, 19, the organisation wants the federal government to address an “unfair” disparity in our democratic system and to give young people a say in their future.

Make It 16 says that under-18s work, pay taxes, drive and face a climate crisis.

“It’s unfair and not right that young people don’t get to have say on those issues,” Coppola told InDaily ahead of Make It 16’s South Australian campaign launch on Saturday.

“We saw that there were so many young people who had some great ideas that they wanted to see happen within our Parliament and within our government, but they couldn’t have their voices actually heard and that’s why we started Make It 16.”

If Australia were to lower the voting age it wouldn’t be the first in the world to do so. Nicaragua allowed those aged 16 and older to vote back in 1984, and was followed by Brazil, Austria, Ecuador, Argentina and Malta. Recently, Scotland and Wales changed their electoral laws to permit younger citizens to vote in local elections, however they’re still not allowed to vote in UK-wide ballots.

The campaign claims around 600,000 young Australians would be added to the electoral roll if the Commonwealth Election Act were modified in Make It 16’s favour – an increase of 3.6 per cent to the number of voters in each Australian electorate.

Further, the campaign is angling for voting to be compulsory for these young Australians, as it is for their older counterparts.

“We are running our campaign based on the model that young people do make enough money to pay taxes, so they should be able to pay a small $20 fine,” Coppola highlighted.

As for what they’d be voting for, Coppola said issues like climate and education were front of mind for young people.

“There’s also the cost-of-living crisis and the housing crisis – these are things that young people are going to be directly impacted by right now and into their future,” Coppola said.

“It’s the fact that they don’t get to make the decisions when they know that they’re going to be the ones to be impacted the most by those decisions.

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Make It 16 co-founder Tabitha Stephenson-Jones. Photo: Make It 16/Sam Biddle.

“It just makes it so wrong that they can’t have their voices heard.”

Year 12 student and Make It 16 SA coordinator Harper Forsythe said young people felt ignored by most politicians.

“I feel like young people aren’t considered as stakeholders at all,” Forsythe said.

“I feel like no matter what I did, no matter which politician I was talking to or what party they were from, they literally just didn’t respect me.”

But why not just wait two years until they’re 18? Coppola told InDaily that he wanted to break free from the status quo.

“That’s what people have done forever, and that’s unfair,” Coppola said.

“16 is definitely a point of maturity for so many young people. It’s the time when young people are the most engaged in what’s going on around them.

“It’s not fair for young people who want to have their voices heard.”

Make It 16 will launch its South Australian campaign on July 1 at The Joinery, Adelaide.

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