Albury teenager passionate about youth engagement in politics

At 17, Albury-born Lauren McGrath-Wild has never cast a federal ballot or voted in anything more significant than a school election.

But she has already had a say on a national level – to those whose opinions shape the country. 

Last week, Miss McGrath-Wild appeared on the ABC’s Q&A impressing deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek and Education Minister Simon Birmingham as she discussed Australia’s education divide, the same-sex marriage postal survey and other pressing political issues. 

Miss McGrath-Wild, who was born in Albury-Wodonga, believes there should be more avenues for youth to have their say, particularly in regional areas. 

“I think it’s so important to get young people engaged in politics,” she said.

“I’m passionate about a lot of issues and want to be able to bring a different perspective to the panel – I’m centre-right politically.

“A lot of young people fall on the left of the spectrum so I wanted to provide a moderate voice for young people.”

It wasn’t Miss McGrath-Wild’s first foray into politics, having participated in the NSW youth parliament program last year. 

She has always been interested in politics, saying her views have been mostly informed by her family, the Christian values of her school and her own sense of right. 

Miss McGrath-Wild said she aspires to be a prosecutor, as she is passionate about issues including the number of sexual offences, the over-incarceration of Indigenous and the need for a national pedophile register.

But the law isn’t her only passion, with the 17-year-old fostering a dream to enter politics “far in the future”.

Miss McGrath-Wild said some young people failed to make the most of opportunities provided to them to engage in politics and wider societal issues.

“Young voices are so important – any change that is made now directly affects us in the future,” she said.

“There are a lot of ways young people can interact with politics but people don’t take up the opportunity, interest in politics is lagging.”

But in the country, there were fewer chances for people, especially young people, to get involved in politics. 

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for young people regionally,” she said.

“One of the main reasons I don’t go to school in the country is that my family recognised there were more opportunities in Sydney – I think that’s true but it’s something we need to address.

“No matter where you live you should be given an equal opportunity to education.”

Miss McGrath-Wild was chosen to appear on the Q&A panel after a video audition and phone interview.