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Government Federal, Youth

Experts comment on lowering the voting age to 16

RMIT University 2 mins read

Professor Judith Bessant, Global, Urban & Social Studies 

“It was no accident that the Labor and Liberal parties were absent from the ‘Make it 16’ launch this week.

“Our own research on the student climate action movement in Australia (funded Australian Research Council) confirms that 15 and 16 year olds feel keenly about their exclusion from the formal political processes.

“This group said they are sick and tired of adults doing nothing about global warming while they are denied a voice as this existential crisis unravels. A crisis which will seriously affect their health, well-being and future more than any other age group.

“Like many others, these young people already demonstrate a capacity and an interest in politics.

"Over the past few years, they have done more to animate climate politics than ‘leaders’ who ‘fiddled as the earth burned’. 

“There are three compelling reasons to support this initiative.

“Firstly, young people have demonstrated their political capacities and interest in politics that have a transformative potential. Children and young people are now enlivening politics.

“Secondly, there is no credible evidence pointing to differences in the political judgement or capacities of 16 and 17 year olds that justifies the denial of their right to vote, which reveals how current laws that deny people under 18 to vote are arbitrary and discriminatory. 

“Finally, there is good research evidence that lowering the voting age leads to greater political participation in formal politics by young people.

“Countries where the voting age has been reduced to 16 have enjoyed increasing participation by young people in formal politics.”

Judith Bessant writes in the fields of sociology, politics, youth studies, policy, media-technology studies and history. She was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2017 for 'Significant service to education as a social scientist, advocate and academic specialising in youth studies research'. 

Professor Rob Watts, Global, Urban & Social Studies  

“This new campaign builds on older exercises to change the electoral law.

“In 2018 the Greens tried to introduce a bill to lower the voting age in federal elections – a move blocked by major parties.

“One novel aspect this time around is that ‘Make it 16 Australia’ is mobilising action and as part of a global movement active in many countries to lower the voting age.

“Canada, Mexico and Germany are on track to lower their voting age while a suite of countries including Austria, Brazil, Argentina, Scotland, Wales, Malta, Cuba and Bosnia have already reduced it. 

“This time around there is a good chance the legislation will get through.

“Back in October 2015 then Labor leader Bill Shorten said that if 16 and 17 year olds “could drive, work, pay taxes, join the military and make their own choices about medical treatment, they should also be allowed to vote”.

“Eight years on young voters have deserted the Coalition parties in droves.  

“It is in the self-interest of Labor to lock in both the 41% of voters aged 18-34 who swung over to Labor after the 2022 election and secure the support of the 600,000 15 17 year olds by giving them the vote.”

Professor Rob Watts teaches policy studies, politics, the history of ideas, and applied human rights at RMIT University. He is a founding member of the Greens Party in Victoria, a founding editor of the journal Just Policy (1994-2006) and established the Australian Centre for Human Rights Education at RMIT University in 2008.

Contact details:

Judith Bessant: +61 413 551 505 or
Rob Watts: +61 417 556 751 or

General media enquiries:
RMIT External Affairs and Media: or +61 439 704 077


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