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Ryan Cooper (19), Australia ‘Connect people in the Oceania region with those in Switzerland’

Ryan Cooper says compulsory voting in Australia ensures that both old and young take part in votes and elections

Ryan Cooper says compulsory voting in Australia ensures that both old and young take part in votes and elections

(zvg)

Ryan Cooper says he wants to encourage Swiss clubs in Australia to be more open towards the younger generation.

The 19-year old, who lives in Perth is a fresh voice of the Swiss Abroad community. swissinfo.ch gives the floor to leading members of the newly-founded online youth parliament.

swissinfo.ch: What do you want to achieve as a member of the new youth parliament of the Swiss abroad – first of all in Switzerland, and second in your country of residence?

Ryan Cooper: I am 19 years old and come from Australia. I have always lived in Perth, Australia, where I was born.

My current occupation is a student of Aerospace Engineering, of which I have completed two years of my Bachelors. I am also studying towards my private pilot’s license.

In my free time, I enjoy activities such as hiking, kayaking and skiing.

My connections to Switzerland are family and friends. I have many family members in Switzerland and elsewhere throughout Europe, I visit them as often as I can. Through participation in the OSA camps, I have made good friends, who now live in Switzerland.

(swissinfo.ch)

Ryan Cooper: I wish to promote Swiss culture with youth Swiss abroad in my home of Australia. I believe being connected with your country of origin is very important.

Currently in Australia, Swiss clubs are not very inclusive of younger members, and this is something I am already working towards changing in collaboration with members of the Swiss Abroad Council representing Australia.

Along with collaborating with the council, I also plan to attend the 2016 Swiss Abroad congress, where engagement of youth Swiss abroad will be an important topic on the agenda.

Connecting people is also one of the goals of Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroadexternal link (YPSA). I hope to connect people who live in the Oceania region with those in Switzerland to open and promote opportunities such as travelling to foreign countries.

swissinfo.ch: What does direct democracy look like in your country of residence? Are there options that you especially appreciate? And ones that you miss having?

R.C.: Australia’s democratic system contains three levels of government, local, state and federal.

Voting is compulsory for all state and federal elections, along with most referendums.

Voting is using the preferential system. In the last federal election, the voter turnout was almost 94%. Having such a large turnout is something I like, as it means the majority of the country has had their say as to who will represent them, as opposed to Switzerland where the turnout is often below 50%.

swissinfo.ch: In most countries young people vote less often than people of other age groups. Isn’t direct democracy a prime agent for young people to communicate their political needs and ideas?

R.C.: Democracy allows people of all ages and beliefs to express their political needs and ideas.

As it is compulsory to vote in Australia (not doing so is punishable by fine), both young and old age groups vote approximately equally.

swissinfo.ch: Since the attacks in Paris, Europe has been obsessed with the terrorism of the Islamic State group. Is the fight against Islamic extremists, which has led to the restriction of individual freedoms, a danger for democracies?

R.C.: Only time will tell the true effect these attacks had on democracy.

Platform for young Swiss expats

The youth parliament of the Swiss Abroad was set up only a few months ago and is still in its infancy.

It’s primarily an online platform which brings together the about 350 members across the world for debates and other exchanges of ideas via social media and skype.

swissinfo.ch interviewed 11 young Swiss expatriates who are leading members of the youth parliament. Our questions focus on issues of participatory citizenship in their countries of residence and in Switzerland.

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