"Children and young people are an untapped resource for Australian democracy," says Collin, who has spent 15 years studying youth political participation. "In longitudinal research we find that they are knowledgeable and passionate about many topics and are doing a wide range of work to make a better society."
The significance of this is not lost on others. "Young people get talked down to a lot, because of ageism. But they are very switched on, strategic and are doing incredible work to help make a better future for everyone," says Dr Jenna Condie, who co-leads the Blue Mountains chapter of the Australian Parents for Climate Action (AP4CA) and collaborates with youth organisations through her transdisciplinary curriculum work at Western.
Young people are organising and attending strikes and protests, creating strategic communication, engaging with politicians, taking legal action and building alliances with other groups and networks. It is mainly young women leading these movements — something the project team aims to understand and explain.
Researchers from Western’s Young and Resilient Research Centre have joined forces with the Australian National University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and the University of Sydney to glean what can be learned from the movement to address climate change and strengthen democracy.
Building on foundational work from 2019 - 2022, the three-year, ARC-funded project will use digital ethnography, surveys, in-depth interviews, and visual analysis to explain how young people express their political commitments.
"We would like to create an evidence base of their actions, which demonstrates how these actions can support broader social, cultural and political outcomes," says Western’s Dr Michelle Catanzaro, who will be focusing on the visual and creative aspects of the research.