Like 45,800 children and young people in Australia right now, Jackson Taylor spent time in the care system. Now he’s a politician representing Bayswater in Victoria as a state MP, and he’s using his political platform to inspire and encourage young people to get their voices heard. Jackson took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions from us about politics and how young people can have their voices heard.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
Always a tough question. I’m a pretty easy going glass half full person with a wicked sense of humour. I am very passionate and opinionated, just ask anyone who knows me. I grew up in Dandenong with my two brothers and I won’t lie, we did it pretty tough. I have always been pretty open about my experiences growing up, because I’ve always believed it can help others and it helped me get through some tough times as well. My early years were spent witnessing some pretty awful family violence situations in the home, my mother spent time in and out of mental health hospitals and my father was never really home due to significant substance abuse. As a result I spent time in kinship (unsuccessfully) and foster care.
This story is not uncommon though and I believe that now given the privilege of my position, I have a responsibility to talk about it and to be help others in similar situations. Like most people in a tough bind as a young person you often fixate on something to ‘get you out of it’. For me, it was education and I was lucky enough to get through my years of schooling, I gave uni a crack and didn’t like it. Then I joined the police force where I spent 5 years and then spent time before being elected to State Parliament as a Police Prosecutor; at the same time I was also a Local Councillor in the City of Knox. I’m not a ‘normal’ 20 something odd person, but then again, what is ‘normal’?
Why did you get into politics?
From my experiences growing up, for whatever reason I became a pretty strong-minded and opinionated kid.
“I decided from a very young age, that no matter what I did, I was going to do something where I could give back to the community and fight for people who face similar situations, for families in need.”
I know politicians aren’t the flavour of the month at the moment, nor have they ever been really. However, I believe that if you have your heart in the right place and you genuinely set out to make a positive difference, you can do good things by working alongside your community. And I hope I am doing that. Politics, one way or another even if you don’t take an interest in it, will always take an interest in you, and so I wanted to take my values, my experiences and be part of working on policy and ideas that make a difference, that count, that change lives for the better.
What can young people do to get involved with politics?
I am always encouraging more young people to get involved in the political process and in politics. At the end of that day, they are the next generation, they will need to live with the decisions made today, tomorrow. From listening to young people myself across the community, in our schools and in community groups, they are passionate about the environment, about sustainability, about education, public transport and a range of other key issues. I would encourage them to hold politicians like me to account, ask the hard questions of your local councillors, MP’s and push for change. That might come from setting up your own Facebook group, or a community group itself, a rally, or as simply as having conversations with friends about what matters to you. And I also believe it is critically important for young people to form part of the decision making process in our Councils and Parliament. There are currently two MP’s in Victoria under the age of 30 and I am proud to be one of them.
“And even if you are not 18 and can’t vote, that doesn’t mean you don’t get a voice, that you can’t be heard.”
If you weren’t a politician, what would you be?
I am a huge movie, theatre and musical fan, so probably an actor. Not sure I’d be any good though.
What message would you like to send to young people with a care experience?
I have said it before and I will say it again, don’t ever think that nobody gives a stuff about you. As dark as it may sometimes seem, as difficult as life can get, there is always someone who can and will listen.
“You are valued, you do absolutely matter and we need to listen to more of you, more often.”
If you are a young person with a care experience aged between 14 and 25 and you are interested in politics and having your voices heard – why not check out our Speak Up Program?