Election 2016: Kids say the darndest things — about leadership.

By Paul Donoughue, Margaret Burin and Elize Strydom

“Young people make up a large proportion of our society but a lot of the election campaign is not aimed at us.”

Liz Chiem, Year 12, school captain at Mount Waverley Secondary College, Victoria, and on executive board of student representative council

“To my peers that do have the chance to vote this year, they’re unsure of what to do because I think both campaigns are pretty similar … It’s a little ambiguous to me. There’s a lot of slogans — jobs and growth, represent the people. I don’t even know any more.

“I just think politics has to change a bit — less about getting votes or getting into power, but more about creating change … It’d be nice to see politicians taking young people seriously and looking more into education and health and services and how to support young people in the economy right now.

“Being a leader is about listening to the people and what they want — engaging with the elderly, the working class, people in high socio-economic communities, youth. Talking to them and listening to their views.

“Around me I have friends and family that identify themselves in the LGBTIQ community and for a leading nation I don’t think we’re doing enough to represent minorities.”

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“I think we should go green. Like, plant some more trees. And not cut down as much trees.”

Kirralee Pringle, Year 6, school captain at Virginia State School, Queensland

“[As school captain], I have to take responsibility and I have to do lots of jobs and just communicate with everybody and respect everybody. If [students] need help I can go to their needs and I can help them generally.

“[Leaders] need to be good at communicating and listening to other people’s opinions. And if they don’t like that person or they don’t agree with their opinion, they just have to listen.

“If I was the prime minister, I would keep the Schoolkids Bonus, because next year I am going to high school and they are doing BYOD, bring your own device, and I would need some money to get a computer for high school next year.

“I would also keep Medicare because … I have a large family [and] if I was sick I could just go to the doctors and they would bulk bill. Otherwise, I would have to pay a lot of money just for them to say I need a bit of rest or something like that.”

“If you’re only leading for your own power or advancement then you’re not really leading at all.”

John Ginnane, Year 12 Prefect for Ignation Service and debating captain at Xavier College, Victoria

“I think you need strong moral courage, you need honesty in your dealings with people, you need a listening heart — by which I mean empathy for other people — and you need to have the right motivations for being a leader.

“A good prime minister, in general terms, should reflect what the electorate wants but they should also have the courage and conviction to take a stand on important issues, even if it is not what’s popular.

“I think that the Government could show a lot more compassion towards refugees and asylum seekers in their policy… I think it’s still important to keep pushing to close the gap in terms of Indigenous affairs … and there’s other areas — helping the environment.

“It’s a lot about the economy — it’s almost as if Australia is a business and ‘who would be the best CEO?’ … but as prime minister, you’re in charge of a community, and people are a lot more complex than just the money that they’ve got.

“We shouldn’t be scared to promote virtues like honesty, justice and truth … they may be a bit deeper and less practical than arguments over the budget but they’re still very important and we need good leadership in those areas.”

“I believe one of the most important skills is honesty and being trustworthy to others.”

Peter Tran, Year 6, school captain at St Felix Catholic Primary School, NSW

“The prime minister needs to have the qualities of a school captain, as well as being able to plan ahead, to know what’s going to happen and where they want to take their country to.

“[They need] to show commitment, to have a goal and be very determined to achieve that goal. They should all listen to others, so they get very good ideas, to make things very good for others.

“First of all I would say we should have more teachers in the classes. It reduces the [number of] students in the classes so they can learn much more.

“I believe the most important thing is to help out others. If they fall down we should help them up, take them to the first aid. We should be very humble with the power and the position we have and not to abuse that position.”

“[A good PM] needs to be able to relate to people; they need to be able to understand what other people are going through, to empathise with them.”

Sarah Miller, 16, head girl at Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Queensland

“And therefore they are able to make the decisions that are to the benefit to the majority, rather than just to them or just to a small group of people.

“I think someone who is a good leader is someone who leads with integrity and who can lead with confidence. So, when they make a decision, they make sure it’s the right decision, and even if people are against it, they are still are confident in their own decision.

“I think something that needs to be improved at the moment is definitely equality, but not just gender equality, in terms of like the pay gap and jobs at that kind of thing … [but] also between those who don’t have as much money as the richer people. The gap’s just getting wider and wider and we need to do something about that.”

“I would be very pressured in a way, because all of Australia is depending on you, but … I would stay calm and try to figure a way to make our country better.”

Elise Aguas, Year 6, school captain at St John Vianney Catholic Primary School, NSW

“A good prime minister should make sure that their country is being well protected.

“When I was announced [as school captain] I was very happy, overwhelmed — everybody was saying that I would get it but I’d doubt it sometimes. I was very happy once I got it. My speech was about trusting me to be a leader and to take care of our school.

“It’s amazing so far. Me and my mum have been talking and I want to try and come up with a way to make our school better, an idea to help our school. So then those people will remember me when I leave.

“[I] make sure that everyone is happy, because I don’t like seeing anyone upset. So I make sure their day has been good.”

“A good prime minister in Australia today needs to be looking towards tomorrow and not just focusing on the issues of today.”

Spencer Davis, Year 10, student on the student representative council at Footscray City College, Victoria

“While the issues of today are important, it’s things that will affect Australia tomorrow that need to be at the core of our prime minister’s agenda.

“I would be focusing on youth issues if I ran the country. Youth in Australia need to have a national peak body to represent them — we need youth focus and we need youth on the agenda.

“A good leader isn’t just somebody that changes things. A good leader is somebody that inspires change from the ground up, so a good leader listens to their people but also inspires them to make change [in] their own homes — at a small scale, and at a large scale.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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