There's a flaw in our democracy. There's a level of miscommunication, of misunderstanding between the youth of our country and its leaders.

It is a flaw we've failed to acknowledge and has consequently driven a wedge into our democracy, despite everyone pretending it hasn't.

See, the problem here is that our youth aren't engaging in politics. To them, it's a distant, fictional world filled with adults around a table moving their mouths more than anything else.

So, in spite of the recent trend of politicians tweeting, posting and campaigning online, thinking that they're getting through to us, the reality is that our leading parties have consistently fallen short in getting their "biggest online audience", us youth, to cast our precious votes in their direction, or in any direction at all.


Ironic, isn't it? Our youth, who are the future of New Zealand, who will live in the tomorrow that today creates, are the ones who are least engaged. So, let's ask the question on every politician's mind this election: "Why?"

The prime culprit of an adolescent's absence from the political scene is one that has been present from a very early age. "Children should be seen, not heard." Sound familiar?

It's an old idiom that has its roots in undermining the significance of a child's voice, and unfortunately, a concept that the older generations find hard to come to terms with-because they could never be the parents who told their own kid to "shut up", could they?

After all, to them, we youth are nothing but "too young to understand!" Comical, I know.
The unfortunate truth is that our politicians think the same way.

They assume and dictate what they believe is best for us youth, and with that, they forge the mentality that as youth, our opinions don't matter. And soon enough, we begin to believe it too.

It's no wonder that 37.27 per cent of young voters aged 18-24 believed they were unequipped to vote in the 2014 general election, resulting in 162,000 young Kiwis binning their voting papers and shying away from the system that was deemed "too complex" for them to understand- in favour of silence.

There's a flaw in the system, clearly, and we're long overdue for a solution. We know what's wrong, and we know why.

The next question we must pose is how? How do we loop in an entire unengaged demographic consisting of 225,000 people, with elections now under way?


The brutal answer? We don't. It's an impossible task. To turn around in the blink of an eye and tell youth that "your opinions are valid" will be about as successful as the laser-kiwi flag's chances at 2015's comical referendum. As great as it is, it's never going to work.

What this democracy needs is a patient, invested, long-term solution to build up a youth culture where voting is as essential as an internet connection.

The youth need to see how vital and necessary their voices are in the political game - not just as young candidates, but also as voters themselves. Every voice is a valid voice, but only if we learn how to use it.

Conveniently, school seems like an appropriate place to learn, don't you think?

Truth is, the absence of "civics education" in our school curriculum is a giant bullet hole in our youngest citizens' developing years, and we've been blind to its necessity for far too long.

We need to educate our growing citizens on how to vote, how to make informed decisions -with a comprehensive understanding of the significance their check marks make on those voting slips.

Maybe then, when our youth have been exposed to the political scene, enlightened by its historical impact, and educated by a system that believes in them, maybe then, we will finally see our youth exercising their democratic rights to vote. And proudly, too.

Our youth are bright, eager, and hopeful. We are. We see the campaigns, online and on billboards. We see the parties, each doing what they think is best for our home. We see the headlines.

But as inspiring as it is, it's also daunting seeing buzzword-loving politicians paint our future for us, without us.

We know what we want to see: a brighter future for New Zealand, for everyone. We just need a little help knowing who to ask, and who's willing to listen. And of course, whether politics is worth investing in - more so than in memes. (Hint to my friends: it is.)

• Anthony Hua is in Year 13 at Ormiston Senior College.