Young Women’s Council member, Aurora Matchett is a 17-year-old student and feminist advocate living in Sydney. Aurora recently featured as a panellist on the high school edition of Q&A alongside Deputy Opposition Leader, Senator Kristina Keneally and Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian.
We chatted to Aurora about her experience of being one of the youngest panellists to ever appear on Q&A and here’s what she had to say:
Q: Hundreds of young people from across Australia auditioned to be on the high school episode of Q&A, how did you make your application stand out?
My audition featured Auslan. As someone who is hearing impaired, I feel representing my pride in Deaf Culture is highly important. I also tried to keep the video light-hearted by using humour in some parts of the video; for me, humour is an inescapable part of human life.
Q: What were some of your highlights from participating in the show?
The biggest highlight of the night, besides meeting two awesome women of power, was having my voice heard. As a young woman, it is so important that I can use my voice for good. I’m lucky that I live in a society that is more accepting of seeing women in positions of power and women who speak their mind, than the society my grandma grew up in. Oh, and calling out Alan Jones as being “afraid of powerful women” on national TV was pretty awesome.
Q: Was there anything about the experience that surprised you?
Coming onto the show I expected there to be a lot of disagreement between the panellists as we all have different views. However, as the conversation unfolded it turned out to be very respectful. Despite all the different opinions, each high school student was able to hear everyone’s side of the matter and ultimately agree to disagree. Having this experience has shown that people can get along with others who hold opposing views. So, the biggest surprise was the life lesson I learnt in just over an hour of conversation.
Q: Were there any tricky questions that caught you off guard?
All of them! Each question was a matter of opinion and as a 17-year-old who was always the 4th speaker on the debating team (AKA the person who didn’t have to talk), stating my opinions on live national TV was a bit daunting. However, being asked challenging questions has caused me to be more confident in my beliefs and opinions.
“Proclaiming the famous “My Body, My Choice” slogan on national TV was a girl power moment that I am proud to have had, and it is a moment that wouldn’t have come about if it wasn’t for tricky questions.”
Q: Do you think young people are always going to be sceptical of politics? How can we change this?
In the 17 years I’ve been alive we have had seven Prime Ministers, that roughly works out to be one every 2.4 years. For me, seeing a constantly changing government means that when it comes to voting I won’t choose the party; I’ll choose the policy and the person who can back up the policy. I’m not afraid to say that when it comes to my voting time, I’ll probably be a swing voter, and I know a lot of my peers will do the same. This comes down to a lack of trust, and at the end of the day aligning with a party that aligns with your views and values and hoping that they carry out what is best for Australia.
Young people are growing up in an age where we have access to so much information, meaning we are better informed about the problems going on. This may be one of the contributing factors to the lack of trust in politics as we can see first-hand what needs to be done and that our government is not doing their part. To improve the situation, I feel we need to work on breaking down this culture of fear around politics and listen to the views of more young people.
Q: As a young person in Australia, what motivates you to create positive change?
My biggest motivation is that one day this world will be the responsibility of my generation and all the problems will be ours to face and figure out. All the damage that is happening will be ours to somehow reverse. Having that constant reminder that one day it will all be in our hands is key to motivating me to want to create positive change.
Q: The show covered some big topics including abortion law reform, body autonomy, climate change and drug legalisation. Are there any big topics important to you that it missed?
I am a strong advocate for young people living with a disability. As a young person myself, living with a disability (severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss), I experience first-hand some of the issues people living with disability face.
I would have loved to have covered topics such as the recent campaign started by Dylan Alcott “Remove the Barrier”. This campaign raises awareness of the fact that people with disabilities spend their whole lives overcoming barriers, but one of toughest barriers is getting a job. Or, the recent study conducted by University of South Australia researcher, Dr Anna Moffat which found that more than half (57%) of young girls with disabilities are experiencing covert bullying in the schoolyard. This is a much higher statistic than the 28 per cent of young girls who do not have a disability and still experience bullying. Topics like these affect thousands of young people in Australia and I am very passionate about raising awareness.