After winning the Muriel Matters Award in 2021, I was invited to attend a Civics and Citizenship National Convention with a hundred other participants. We were called to the convention to discuss the question: “Should Australia have compulsory voting?”
The event was held virtually in Canberra, but the state delegates met in person. In SA, we met at the Stamford Hotel in Adelaide, directly across from Parliament House. The conference room had floor-to-ceiling windows and provided us with a clear view of SA’s Parliament House. Whilst sitting in my chair, I would look across and remember the weight of my representation at the conference.
During the conference, we were introduced to a multitude of ideas by various speakers; this allowed us to consider all perspectives about the topic. My favourite speaker was Professor Judith Brett from La Trobe University. Her most recent work includes the book “Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting”; her talk enabled us to consider the history of Australian compulsory voting, and learn how Australia was ahead of its time when it came to civil rights.
Keynote speakers Professor Christine Wallace and Professor Mark Evans gave us a more modern perspective regarding compulsory voting. Professor Wallace presented arguments both for and against compulsory voting – the for list was much longer than the against.
Professor Evans gave us a broader understanding of how voting works around the world. His talk covered voting practices in Germany, England, France and New Zealand, and compared the pros and cons of each. His talk made me grateful for the elegant and simplistic voting system that we have.
Finally, we spilt off into working groups to reach a conclusion based on the information we were given. I was elected as head of my group and had the opportunity to present our conclusion and viewpoint. The conference ended with ninety “Ayes” and twelve “Noes” to continue compulsory voting in Australia.
I left the conference much less ignorant regarding this topic and more confident in myself for supporting Australia’s voting regulations.
~ Prapti Pai (Year 10)