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Literature review

Young people and democracy: a review

A Whitlam Institute ‘Future of Australian democracy – young people and democracy’ research project
Democracy Political leadership Political models Public trust Public opinion Youth Australia
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Young people and democracy: a review 3.02 MB

This literature review was commissioned by the Whitlam Institute following earlier work on Young People and Democracy, commencing in 2008. This present literature review forms part of the Institute’s current policy research on the Future of Australian Democracy, along with a recently completed environmental scan of the activities of civil society organisations and the institutional frameworks governing young people and democracy in Australia and at the global level. The review will also inform the hands-on work of the Whitlam Institute in Civics and Citizenship Education and the What Matters? writing competition for young Australians.

This review reports on the scholarship published between 2009-2019, and reflects on the new insights and questions that the field now poses. The review’s key concerns – young people, democracy, citizenship and participation – are highly contested concepts. Therefore, the review has adopted a broad approach, understanding democracy as constituted through institutions and procedures as well as civic cultures and practices. Similarly, the review is inclusive of research on the political views and practices of people aged 12-30. Indeed, as the experience of ‘youth’ is different among young people, in different settings and country contexts, and transitions from ‘childhood’ to ‘adulthood’ are becoming more complex, non-linear and drawn out, a more inclusive approach is not merely justified but necessary.

Young people’s politics are emerging in a time of significant social, cultural, technological and economic change. As such, the review focuses on Australian young people’s civic and political attitudes and practices in the context of the broader global forces that shape them. Key trends in democracies around the world are also reflected in Australia where levels of trust in governments and politicians have fallen sharply over the last ten years. At the same time, as the global climate protest movement has shown, people are taking action in local and global movements with even very young children expressing political views and participating in public debate. There is an ever-growing and urgent need to consider diverse experiences, forms of contestation, exclusion and difference that are manifest in contemporary politics and explore the implications of these for democracy.

Related Information

What matters? Young people and democracy https://apo.org.au/node/309797

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