As Associate Professor Faith Gordon says, “lowering the voting age to 16 years extends basic citizenship, democratic and human rights to more young people”. To put it as Clement might, word, sista.

Sure, some of us don’t care about politics. But that just means we’re no different from Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation; a portion of every generation is disinterested.

Greens MP Stephen Bates, who introduced a private member’s bill to lower the voting age to 16 in Australia in 2023, made a good point: “16- and 17-year-olds can drive cars, work, enlist in the Australian Defence Force, and serve their communities, yet they have no say in the composition of their own government.”

Supporting the bill, Greens leader Adam Bandt said: “The 16- and 17-year-olds I’ve met understand Australia’s challenges better than most current ministers.”

Sassy comparisons aside, it does seem unfair. The minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old, while the age of consent is 16 in all jurisdictions except Tasmania, where it’s 17. That our laws deem teenagers mature enough to face criminal punishment for their actions and give sexual consent, but find them too immature to vote, in a general election should give all of us pause for thought.

No doubt another reason behind Bandt’s support is that his party stands to gain the most from lowering the voting age. As the 2022 Australian Election Study stated and confirmed, we younger Australians tend to lean to the left, particularly on issues like climate change.


Perhaps that’s why the political ramifications of extending the voting age have obstructed any hope of change. Nine years of Coalition rule meant no serious consideration was given to the question – but now, with Labor in power, are 16- and 17-year-olds in with a chance?

This once looked like it would be the case. In the 2016 federal election, then-opposition leader Bill Shorten voiced support for lowering the voting age, and in 2018, Labor offered general backing for the idea. Yet, two years into a Labor government, there has been little movement on the issue.

As with the Coalition, it’s likely that Labor has calculated that too much support would go the way of the Greens. Meaning a self-interested desire to preserve the status quo is the driving factor for both parties here.

So, is there any hope of change? In Australia, beyond the advocacy of the Greens and some independents, there is little political backing. But as Ravin Desai, an organiser of the Make It 16 campaign, says, one powerful truth remains: “If the major parties choose not to listen to this call, they do so at their own peril.”

Desai is right. Young Australians, who are already more politically eager than ever, will reach the ballot box one day, and they won’t forget the people or the parties who kept them from it.

Daniel Cash is a law student at ANU.

The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.