Generation Y and Alice Springs

The other day I met with a local journalist interested in featuring a story on the Generation Y (those born 1980-1995). 

Our meeting prompted discussion about the nature of politics and future generations.  When we looked at issues that the Gen Y are interested in we came up with familiar themes: cheaper flights interstate to encourage the high social mobility (that the Gen Y share across the western world); more recreational opportunities; more accommodation options and all the other issues that other generations are interested in (community safety, community pride, et cetera.). 

A strong feature of our present generation is the strength of our economy.  The current generation is fortunate to live in these circumstances and there are many work opportunities available.  We haven’t experienced a recession as other generations before us have. 

We talked about how the difference between generations is largely the result of changes in technology.  I’ve met senior people who came to Alice Springs when they were young and had no electricity, fridges, televisions, et cetera.  Younger generations are now exchanging money over the internet and spend increasing amounts of time engaging social networking sites.  Mobile phones and computers are common place.  The contrast is significant.

More over the fold.

When it comes to identity the Gen Y is proud to be part of the pluralism and diversity that exists.  Young people who grow up in Alice Springs are familiar with the fact that regardless of their background they associate strongly with this region: its land, its people and its pluralism.   Pride in our pluralism is generally embraced.

An important observation was the opportunities that are lost because a large section of the Gen Y have not had access to adequate education that is relevant for developing capabilities and engaging across the possibilities of employment pathways.  This not only affects our regional economy and possibility of economic growth, but it permeates across a range of social aspects. 

Further, when we look at Vincent Lingiari’s achievement of reatining strike action amongst his mob for several years during the Wave Hill walk-off, the contrast to the present situation is stark.  Subject to great pressure from the younger generation, Mr Lingiari ensured that the strike was to continue despite offers for his people to return to work on less than equal pay.  Today, the same degree of authority appears to be absent.  Substance misuse has displaced traditional structures of authority and this has had devastating consequences.  This is not to say that traditional authority structures do not exist, and that they are not observed, but there are sufficient examples of its displacement to say that the social norms that relate to authority and that existed during Mr Lingiari’s period have been severely disrupted. 

These facts inform a new kind of politics.  It demands new voices and a new discourse in the political arena.  Not just in the contest of ideas and policy but a repudiation of those aspects of contemporary policy that have contributed to our present challenges. 

Questions that arise include: where is the space to contest new ideas?  how do contemporary political power structures support and strengthen the contest of new ideas? 


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