'I'm doing it for my kids' — this is how some supporters of the Brexit Leave campaign explained their position before the referendum.
In their minds, supporters were voting not for the effects EU membership is having on them, but the effects it would have on their children in the future. In the end, 56 per cent of voters aged 50–65 voted to leave, along with 44 per cent of voters aged 25–49.
Yet the story was very different for young people: 75 per cent of voters aged 18 to 24 voted in favour of Remain. It seems the message from 'the kids' to older voters was 'thanks, but no thanks'.
The same can be seen in domestic politics here in Australia. We often hear politicians and voters talk about the effects of a policy on future generations — whether it be the budget and the debt with which young people will be 'burdened' or the effects of climate change. Come election time, we hear commentators discussing the effect of the youth vote and attempts to divine 'what young people want'.
Yet the issues of concern to young people — such as mental wellbeing and equality — do not get much attention. In election coverage, young people are not asked what they think outside of the occasional vox pop or special interest article.
The response to the suggestion that young people and their issues are ignored is to suggest that, if young people want to change things, they need to get involved. Put another way, the problem is not us — it's the apathetic youth.
The common wisdom is that young people don't care about politics. On any traditional measure of participation, young people have abandoned the field. Political parties, unions, parliamentary committee hearings, local council meetings — you generally won't find many young people there and, if you do, they are overwhelmingly outnumbered by older people.
The key word here is 'traditional'.
"The problem isn't that youth are disengaged, but that we expect them to engage on our terms."
Look in 'untraditional' places and you will see young people who are very active in debates about how we should live as a society. Social media, online lobby organisations such as GetUp and Change.org, and protests have a large youth contingent. They may not talk much, or even be all that interested in, the policies announced by political candidates. Instead, they talk about their own agenda — mental health, education reform and youth empowerment.
Young people are also taking action. Startups such as Co-Ground, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Human Trafficking Resource and Assistance Centre and Grata Fund evidence young people's desire to take action on the big issues affecting our society — and on their own terms.
Perhaps then the problem isn't that youth are disengaged and apathetic, but that we expect them to engage on our terms. When they don't turn up to our town hall meetings and fail to make submissions to inquiries or write letters to MPs, we conclude that they're just not interested.
In doing so, we lose the benefit of young people's contributions. We already know that social policy is improved by diversity. Different perspectives based on life experience, gender, age, cultural background, sexual preference and many others shape nuanced, sophisticated policy.
Young people are the hipsters of political trends. Young people are thinking about issues long before the rest of us catch up. Marriage equality is now a mainstream issue, and consideration of the deregulation of cannabis has led to laws for the medicinal use of cannabis in Victoria.
Democratic participation is also contagious and addictive. The more young people contribute to political debate and feel that their contributions are heard, the more they are likely to do it.
This week, it will be easy to find young people and the issues that are important to them. They'll be in the Victorian Parliament: 120 young people will take over the benches of parliament to debate and vote on bills they have developed over many months. Issues on the agenda of the 2016 YMCA Victorian Youth Parliament include medically safe injecting centres, state provision of sanitary items, universal mental healthcare access and prohibiting smoking, just to name a few.
So this week, don't just vote for your children. Listen to them and let them vote for themselves.
Katie Miller is a Melbourne lawyer and Immediate Past President of the Law Institute of Victoria. She participated in YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament in 1997 and 1998 and was Youth Premier in 1998.
Caitlin Meyer is Youth Parliament's current Youth Governor and works in the youth empowerment space.
Main image: Former YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament participants.