Young People and Democracy: What Matters?


Since 2004, the Whitlam Institute’s ‘What Matters?’ student writing competition has invited young people to share their interests and concerns regarding social, economic, cultural and political issues, and their visions of what we as a society could do to address these problems. The program has accumulated more than 24,500 entries comprising a rich archive of young people’s views in NSW, ACT and Tasmania.

This project will conduct quantitative and qualitative textual analysis of archived entries to the ‘What Matters?’ competition. In doing so, it will explore a range of questions, including: What issues have concerned young people in Australia in the last ten years? How do these reflect or relate to mainstream political debates and events? What can politicians and other decision-makers learn from young people’s views?

This project represents a unique opportunity to generate valuable new knowledge on young people’s politics which will contribute to both democratic theory and practice. It will also serve to test the methodology and establish a protocol for the archiving, digitisation and analysis of future ‘What Matters?’ entries.


Associate Professor Philippa Collin

Dr Sky Hugman



Whitlam Institute


June 2019 – March 2020

Research Output

For more information, you can read the report here.