The value of democracy
The Lowy Institute Poll is a key element of the Lowy Institute, an independent, bi-partisan think tank which researchers and analyses international trends. One of its goals is to find out what Australians think about the world.
This year, like last year, the Poll included a question on the value of democracy. The responses confirmed last year’s insights that a large number of young Australians are ambivalent about democracy. It revealed that less than half (48%) of young Australians aged between 18–29 years prefer democracy over any other kind of government. While this view apparently decreases as Australians get older it is a worrying trend for any democratic nation particularly one where the youth vote represents about 12 per cent of the total vote.
Here at the Museum of Australian Democracy we find this information fascinating, but also challenging. We are not ambivalent about democracy and our mission is to engage and inspire our visitors young and old to be aware of and participate in all aspects of community life. The museum’s exhibitions and collections, diverse public programs and the building itself provide a unique environment in which to discuss and debate all aspects of our democratic history and its connections to contemporary issues.
The museum’s Learning team delivers successful and engaging civics-based programs to thousands of school students, young adults and families from all around Australia. These programs are designed to encourage participation rather than observation; discussion rather than instruction; and to work in collaboration rather than in isolation.
The museum also hosts major events for young people. One example is the National Indigenous Youth Parliament held in May 2012. A partnership between the YMCA, Australian Electoral Commission and the museum, it was run over a week and culminated in two days of debates here in the historic chambers of the museum. The bills debated in the chambers were chosen by the young adult participants and the subjects ranged from mental health issues in remote communities to changing the date of Australia Day.
Since opening in 2009 we have delivered our award winning school programs to over 300,000 students and teachers. Here are some thoughts on what students think democracy means to them:
Democracy means people power.
Democracy is about freedom.
Democracy means I have a voice.
Come and visit if you want to discover democracy and your place in it.