"I am 23. I have no political experience. And I'm standing against the NSW Premier."

Clara Williams Roldan has no political experience. But she’s about to face off against the NSW premier Mike Baird in the upcoming New South Wales’ state elections.

I am a final year university student with no experience in politics. And, I am about to enter a race I know I can’t win. I’m standing against the Premier Mike Baird in my local area electorate of Manly in the upcoming NSW state elections. However, I think it is important to run, and to run hard.

I’m standing because I believe my generation needs to take responsibility for our own future. How many times have you heard young people referred to as ‘the future of Australia’? That’s obvious just in terms of demographics. But, if everyone is talking about us, why is it that there are so few young faces and opinions in the conversation about Australia’s political life?

That’s something I’d like to know, because I only need to glance at my phone to find out what virtually every one of my friends has had for lunch. Yet, I honestly don’t know how many of them would vote. In this age of over sharing, such political silence is deafening.

Greens candidate for Manly, Clara William Roldan. Photo: Facebook

I suspect there are two interconnected reasons. First, there’s the Peter Pan ‘I’ll be young forever so why worry now’ syndrome. You just have to look the careless manner in which we manage our superannuation. We can’t even imagine getting old, so why save for this inconceivable future. I only found out which Super fund I was with last week (though I admit this may just be me). To some extent, young people have always eschewed politics in favour of virtually anything else on offer.

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Secondly, the political conversation never seems to hit a nerve with my generation. I mean, who are all these people with mortgages and steady jobs, luxuriating in their worries about interest rates and 9-5 commuting challenges? I have had so many lousy casual jobs and worked so many unpaid internships – and I studied really, really hard and got the right ATAR – but I can’t even imagine finding anything resembling a reasonable job. Instead, I’ll likely work very long or irregular hours in an insecure position; sunning myself in the glow of my laptop screen. And home ownership? As a student I’ve paid $280 week for a dark, tiny room in an unrenovated house and, given the fierce competition for leases, I was considered lucky to even get that.


Which immediately comes back to my first point. Everything is, in fact, not alright if you are young. Unemployment for 15-24 year olds is more than double the all-age average. If we use the Intergeneration Report’s approach of extrapolating out from today, things aren’t looking too rosy in the future either, unless we come up with some brighter ideas.

“We can either let people who won’t be around to deal with the consequences shape our future or we can put ourselves in the running.” Photo: Facebook

It would be easy to be angry about the legacy we have been left. To rage against the baby-boomers and their children for reaping the bounty and leaving only scraps behind. But, really there is no-one to blame and all that is left is for us to take responsibility for our own future.

In my case, I am standing for the Greens because they reflect my personal concerns for the future. However, we need young voices right across the political spectrum. I don’t suggest I speak for my generation, or even my friends. I just want my generation, whatever their views, to get up and speak for themselves. This doesn’t mean I don’t understand how important experience and knowledge are in politics or that young people have any special wisdom. But, politicians represent our communities, so political life should be just as diverse as our communities are.

“We need young voices right across the political spectrum.” Photo: Facebook

As young Australians, we’re facing a future that will be completely different to anything that has come before us. We can look at this negatively, or embrace it for the possibilities it opens up. We are, as they say, digital natives, and we can use this great big world of instant communication for something more productive than sharing photos of my handsome cat on Instagram (not to brag, but one his photos got 10K views).

We are already working out new way of supporting ourselves without conventional jobs by crowd sourcing start up funds and creating online businesses. We aren’t too far away from being able to mock up new products in a design program and then have a 3D printer spit them out. But, will this pay the bills?

Related: All my friends are unemployed

It might, but we don’t know yet. What I do know, however, is we can’t just sit back and let the wants, needs and opinions of today’s stakeholders determine our future.

Our lives have already been defined by constant change, and there is much more to come. We could just let ourselves be swept along and then history would repeat itself. We’d just be the next generation of complainers in line, blaming all those grey men in suits for the uncertainty we face.

But, we do have a choice. We can either let people who won’t be around to deal with the consequences shape our future or — as nerve-wracking as it might be for me to stand next to Mike Baird – we can put ourselves in the running.

Clara Williams Roldan is a final year Combined Law student at the University of Sydney. She is the Greens candidate for the NSW seat of Manly. You can follow her on Twitter at @clarainmanly