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Stop calling young people apathetic. For many, volunteering and activism go hand-in-hand

Senator Jacqui Lambie has proposed establishing a Senate inquiry to increase the number of volunteers to address challenges such as climate emergencies.

Professor Lucas Walsh for The Conversation

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Senator Jacqui Lambie has proposed establishing a Senate inquiry to increase the number of volunteers to address challenges such as climate emergencies.

One way she suggests doing this is by conscripting young Australians to national emergency service. The Senator argues that today’s generation don’t really want to volunteer themselves and commit to certain things. They want to show up to a rally once a year and apparently that’s giving back … It bothers me that kids today wouldn’t know a bloody sandbag, let alone a spade.

Her proposal comes on the back of criticism of youth climate protesters by several prominent politicians, such as Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who has said the best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue.

Collectively, these statements reflect a view of young people that is wildly inaccurate.

Firstly, Lambie echoes a familiar but negative view of young people as disengaged, indifferent and immature.

Volunteering rates are indeed declining. In 2014, volunteering declined for the first time since 1995, when the ABS started conducting national voluntary work surveys. The proportion of people aged 18 years and over who were volunteering fell from a peak of 36% in 2010 to 31% in 2014. (This is the most recent data available).

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Stop calling young people apathetic. For many, volunteering and activism go hand-in-hand

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