In May 2020, The Festival of Dangerous Ideas launched FODI Digital, a series of online conversations. In ‘Stolen Inheritance’, three youth leaders from across Australia were asked to comment on their hopes and fears of the future. The views and suggestions on everything from the pandemic, the economy, climate change and politics was very thought provoking and showed the generosity, resilience and thoughtfulness of our younger generations. There is a lot we can learn.
Below is an abridged version of the conversation with Daisy Jeffrey and Audrey Mason-Hyde, chaired by Dylan Storer. Watch the full session here.
Dylan — The session today is called “Stolen Inheritance”. Do you think that we are entitled to an inherence? There’s a lot of talk at the moment, about younger people, millennials, and Gen Z being an entitled generation. Do you think, that we as young people are entitled to an inherence for the future?
Audrey — I would say I’m a human rights activist, kind of first and foremost, and so, I believe we’re all entitled to something. We’re entitled to safety, and we’re entitled to basic human rights and dignity. But also, are we asking the older generation, our parents, our grandparents, to sacrifice their happiness to serve our future? I guess that considering whether there’s a fine line between how entitled we are, and how entitled we deserve to be. So, I think it’s a really interesting question to raise. And I think we can’t ask for too much, other than our safety.
Dylan — Do you think that we’re too entitled? Or do you think that we’ve got the balance right at the moment?
Audrey — I think we’ve got the balance right. I think what people are actually saying when they say that we’re too entitled, is that they don’t want to put in the amount of work to give us a safe climate or to actually apologise to underprivileged people who are actually put at a disadvantage by the system. So I think it depends who you’re talking to. If you’re talking about the School Strike movement, and activists, then I think we’ve got the balance right. I don’t think we should all be asking for a million dollars inherence, in that traditional sense of the word. But we do deserve something, we’re not getting at the moment.
Dylan — Daisy, you just recently published a book, called “On Hope”, and that outlines a vision — congratulations on that book as well — what do you think the vision of hope is for young people at the moment?
Daisy — I think the vision of hope for the young people is the future. And I think that has been the vision young people for many generations past. And so I think when we talk about “Stolen Inheritance”, we’re talking about a generation that has a very uncertain future. When we look ahead it’s really clouded with potential disaster, and bad leadership.
And the thing is when we talk about a “Stolen Inheritance”, we’re not saying that the generations before us failed, what we’re saying is that the leadership has not been adequate. In tackling climate change and that politicians, or people in position of power with money, with influence, many of them have deliberately mismanaged the situation, and have pushed ahead in favour of furthering their own self interest. And so I think that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about “Stolen Inheritance”. We’re also talking about racism. I think people are trying to come to terms with that, but I think they’re a lot of conversations still to be had. And it’s an uncomfortable conversation that has to be had at length.
But it’s this idea of “Stolen Inheritance”, is a really complex one, and it’s not about entitlement, I think, and really what we want in terms of luxury going forward, it’s just basically a decent existence. And the understanding that we do have a future that we’re working towards.
Dylan — Audrey what are you personally seeing from your perspective in the education system at the moment, the sort of the inequalities that exist within the education system, from your perspective?
Audrey — Oh gosh, so many, so many. When we talk about the education system, and really any institution in Australia, what we’re missing if we’re not talking about it, all the indigenous people who are disadvantaged by the systems that we’ve built here. And I think that’s a form of “Stolen Inheritance”.
But we need to talk about the people who are so incredibly smart, they’re speaking three or more languages from their area, and they’re really quite big community leaders and they’re failing in school. And I know one of the people who couldn’t be here today was Duane Hassan, who is a really incredible kid. Who is supersmart, and seen as a failure. And I think that we have to acknowledge that and because of the pandemic we also have to acknowledge all of the young people who can’t go to school anymore and are missing out on their education because they have bad WIFI so they can’t access online school. Or they don’t have the right device, or they’re too far away from school to get there safely everyday.
And there’s a lot of factors that we don’t consider from our position, or my position at least. I live in quite a big house, I’m really thankful for that. And my parents, we’ve got enough money to sustain ourselves. And so it’s really a question always in Australia, of how we’re going fix the education system to better benefit those who aren’t white, and native English speakers? But also how does that come into play with the pandemic? How are we going to ensure that people have the means they need to access online school and physical school.
I guess it’s really a question of who is classically disadvantaged, and who is more so disadvantaged by the pandemic? And I think overwhelmingly, that’s people of colour.
Dylan — And I think as well, sort of looking at if we talk about the education system, or how we fix the education system in Australia always being a repetitive topic, yet nothing seems to actually change. It comes around every election, each side says, “We’re going boost funding by this much. “We’re not going cut funding.” And that’s really how shallow our debate is around education at the moment. It’s how much money do private schools get against public schools, or it’s not actually about the system. Which disadvantages so many people.
I know from my perspective I didn’t do the HSC, or in WA it’s called a WACE, WA Certificate of Education, I actually don’t have one of those. Technically according to the government, I didn’t graduate high school even though I finished and I got entry into university. I went through a different pathway. Which was a Big Picture Portfolio entry pathway. Right now I study at the University of Wollongong, I study International Relations in Journalism. And I think that that shows really what we hold up at the moment as being this ATAR score this HSC, we hold that up as being the main way to get into university, the main way to succeed. When it really isn’t the way to succeed.
[Our education system] has all of these fundamental flaws, this standardised testing, and different levels. That really it’s not working for anyone apart from quite a small group of people.
Daisy — Yes, definitely. I think we saw a huge amount of inequality across the board. And we also see from certainly some politicians sincerity, but I don’t think it’s a problem across the board in politics. Beside your short terms, it’s essentially just as soon as you get back into parliament, campaigning towards the next election. And there seems to be so little intent to actually create change that benefits all students across the board. And it makes me really uncomfortable with the leadership in this country.
Audrey — Yeah, absolutely. And I think what the pandemic’s brought to light for me at least, is how politicians actually understand social issues. They’re so quick to jump on if there is a big crisis that’s starts affecting privileged white people really. And they’re so quick to jump on, but they also only really solve in the short term the economic crisis, they don’t look at the social crisis. They don’t look at the communication crisis, and the mental health crisis that comes out of these events. And we’ve seen increases in JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments that were not increased when they also needed to be when they were just New Start.
I think there’s a huge power imbalance, and a huge inequality in how our leaders actually address social issues.
They know the economy, they understand the economy because particularly Scott Marston, has come from a very economic background. And so there’s not the same kind of understanding for other elements of social issues. Which is a real problem because I think this generation probably cares about that more than the economy.
Dylan — I would argue that social issues and the economy are really linked at the same time. You can’t have one without the other but there seems to be that idea within places like parliament at the moment, that you can sort have one without the other. And if you just fix the economy, social issues will follow. But you sort of need to approach it on both ways.
We’ve got a question from the audience, and I think ties in to this quite well at the moment. How do you think we can come out of this pandemic better, as a better society, a better country, a better world?
Daisy — Yeah, I think even that chat about social issues and the economy, and them being intrinsically linked.
You know we need a more holistic approach to the way we’re tackling this crisis. And I would accept that the government has done a lot of work to alleviate this pandemic. But I think what it is failing to see is an opportunity for change, and to come out of this you know, better than we went into it.
I can speak in terms of climate — it showed just how quickly our society was able to adapt to recognise and mitigate a threat. And it showed how quickly our government was able to respond. And I would ask why the government’s response cannot be so quick when it comes to a climate crisis that we’re living through. We have two existential crises running alongside each other. And it’s a very difficult thing to mentally deal with one let alone two.
Of course I think we are dealing with a lot of damage from the bush fires right now that we haven’t fully been able to come to terms with, and also deal with and help those who’ve been directly impacted by the fires, because this pandemic has come through.
I think coming out of this instead of simply going, “Let’s kickstart the economy”, I think we really need to examine where we go from here, as a society, as a country and think how can we figure this out, so that it is going to lead everybody in a more equal, you know, in a better of position than before.
Because what I do worry about now is that we’re going to get through this pandemic, which is incredible, you know getting through it. But that the response from the government is going to be when we ask them about JobKeeper, and when we ask the government about climate, they’re going to say, “We’re just focused on the economy, “why are you asking us about this now?” And I think you know, that’s the real focus from activists, and academics, and just people all over the country at the moment is really re-orientating the conversation so that we can get a better outcome after this pandemic.
Audrey — Well, and I think of the issue with the term “Stolen Inheritance”, right is, I think it’s dwelling on this idea that we’ve had something taken from us, instead of the idea that our inheritance as a generation is to learn how to fix the problems we’ve been left with. Which admittedly, I don’t want to have to do. I wish they were fixed, and I want to complain about you know, the fact that our futures have kind of been sold all day. But how are we going to come out of this crisis and recognise as equally as we’ve recognised COVID19, the climate crisis?
Even though it’s a much longer term thing, and how are we going in the same way that the government has increased those payments, help bush fire affected communities and climate crisis affected communities, and drought affected communities. How are we going to do that? And I think for people that were already clued into these issues, that seems a like a very obvious path. But how are we going to get the government to recognise that?
Dylan — What would you like to see the generation following us, following our generation, receive “as an inheritance” from our generation?
Daisy — I’d love for them to have promise of a decent future. Working to create and further the things that they love. And I hope, and more equal footing in life as they charter across the board, regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, you know, and that’s what you know I really hope for.
Audrey — I guess I hope to build or maintain a level of safety for the next generation. In terms of a safe climate, but also a safe political climate if I’m staying on the same page, and that would be having the human rights that we currently don’t have for everyone. And having a sense of more equality, than we currently have.
On a personal note, I want future non-binary and gender diverse kids to be able to say that from a really young age. And be fine with it, and have no issues. But we can’t have that and other you know social issues come to pass until we can guarantee that they’ll be breathing safe air, and drinking safe water. And so I think our flirts fight is the climate fight. And I want to leave my children and grandchildren a safe climate.
Dylan — Definitely, I agree with that a 100%. And hopefully throughout our lives we can help do that.
Daisy Jeffrey is a National Organiser of School Strike For Climate Change. She is working with school and university students across the world who are asking politicians to take our future seriously.
Audrey Mason-Hyde is an activist, poet & public speaker. In 2017, Audrey created a talk for TedX Adelaide about their experience of gender.
Dylan Storer is a young journalist that grew up in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. He’s passionate about equity, justice and youth leadership on the issues of our time.