CAIRNS will have its first taste of youth democracy as thousands of young people head to the ballot box this week for the inaugural Cairns Youth Council election.
Voters will head to local high schools and community spaces to elect 12 representatives from 18 candidates to the Cairns Youth Council, which will be split into four regions (North, Central, South and Far South).
Young people aged 11-17 (inclusive) are eligible to vote for the candidates running in the region they live or spend the most time in.
Voting will be optional preferential, mirroring local, state and federal elections, to provide a comprehensive voting experience for young voters.
The Cairns Youth Council is the result of Cairns Regional Council’s participation in the Young Mayors Program, a pilot program being delivered by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) in partnership with local Councils in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The pilot program aims to get young people more involved in local decision-making.
Cairns acting Mayor Terry James said election week would be a new experience for young voters in the region.
“Cairns has about 14,000 young people who are eligible to elect representatives from a diverse pool of candidates this election,” he said.
“Once elected, the Cairns Youth Council will meet regularly and provide formal advice to Councillors and help us make decisions with meaningful input from the next generation of local leaders.
“At the ‘Meet the Candidates’ event this month, we heard directly from candidates who had a range of incredible ideas and policies that could ensure Cairns continues to thrive.
“Council is keen to see young people actively involved in our community and we’re excited to make that happen through the Cairns Youth Council.”
Elected by young people in the Cairns region by a democratic process, the Cairns Youth Council will work together to define priority areas, and work with council to implement projects and events.
The Cairns Youth Council will serve an 18-month term in office from February 2024 to July 2025.
Candidates have had access to free workshops on being an elected representative and campaigning, marketing tutorials and campaign materials. The program will back young people to learn about and participate in the systems that govern their lives, and influence decisions that impact their community.
FYA’s acting Executive Director of Civic and Cultural Engagement Tahlia Azaria said a youth council ensures local government decisions reflect the desires of young people.
“Local governments play a huge role in the everyday lives of people in our communities, and that includes young people. But young people are often locked out of power – consulted but never in charge,” they said.
“This program puts young people in the driver’s seat – ensuring that council policies and programs better reflect the concerns, needs, and desires of local young people.”
The Young Mayors pilot program has been designed by FYA and is based on successful UK models.
Cairns joins Mackay (QLD), Horsham (VIC) and Wollongong (NSW) to pilot the program in Australia, with plans to scale to councils across the country.
The four divisions for the Cairns Youth Council include:
Freshwater, Brinsmead, Redlynch, Kamerunga, Caravonica, Barron, Yorkeys Knob, Smithfield, Trinity Park, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove, Ellis Beach
Portsmith, Bungalow, Westcourt, Mooroobool, Manunda, Parramatta Park, Manoora, Kanimbla, Whitfield, Edge Hill, Cairns City, Aeroglen, Stratford, Machans Beach, Holloways Beach
Mount Peter, Edmonton, Bentley Park, Mount Sheridan, White Rock, Woree, Bayview Heights, Earlville
Babinda, Miriwinni, Bramston Beach, East Russel, Bellenden Ker, Gordonvale, Goldsborough, Aloomba, Fishery Falls
Young people will be able to cast their votes at their school, or at some community locations. A list of community voting locations can be found here.
Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Far Northern fire ban extended and Taskforce Guardian continues work against youth crime.