Law student youngest councillor to win seat on local government

November 7, 2017

More diversity: Dean of Law congratulates student Jason Russell – youngest councillor elected to local government

Murdoch University law student Jason Russell is the new face of a push for greater diversity in local government in Western Australia.

At 19 years of age, the second year student is the youngest person to win a seat in the recent elections, which saw a big shake-up of local government in the state.

More women and younger candidates were elected to councils from the biggest pool of hopefuls in recent times, in a development welcomed by Murdoch political scientist Dr Ian Cook.

“I’m hoping that having younger people on councils will give local government the stimulus it needs to become a more important part of government in Australia than it has been," Dr Cook said.

“In the end, young people have a future to protect and have been systematically failed by older generations.

“Maybe some of them are understanding that and realising they need to get involved to prevent their interests being sacrificed to those of older generations.”

Councillor Russell won a highly contested race for the Mundaring Shire in the Perth hills, powered by some of the skills he developed during his academic studies.

“I chose to study law because it is a really good cornerstone and it has given me the skills I was looking for – reasoning, arguing and writing – that can be applied to politics, international policy or business,” he said.

“I was concerned my age might work against me, but I took the time to get out in the community and meet people and I was able to shore up people’s confidence that I have the maturity and the skills to be a councillor.”

Mr Russell said he was inspired by the Murdoch curriculum which emphasised practical opportunities, encouraging students to get involved and make a difference.

Among the practical study options for students are the human rights clinic, street law program and many mooting competitions. Other popular options for undergraduates are overseas programs in Geneva focussing on human rights and in Macerata, Italy studying European Union law.

Dr Cook suggests that Fremantle Mayor and Murdoch University graduate Brad Pettit could be credited with inspiring more, younger candidates to run for local government and encouraging greater interest from younger voters.

“He’s represented a younger and more effective voice in local government over the last decade and one that is about environmental issues, in which younger people have a greater interest,” Dr Cook said.

“Mr Pettit’s profile was enhanced when the Fremantle Council moved to change the date for Australia Day.

“More importantly, it propelled local government into something more than being about rates and garbage collection and made it clearer that important things can be done at a local level.”

Dr Cook said that local government was a little freer of the major-party malaise that currently affected state and federal politics, although the major parties were even more present than usual in the recent election.

“Thankfully it was not enough to turn young people off local government in the way it is turning them, and others, against state and federal politics.”


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Media contact: Eugenie Harris
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Categories: General, Teaching and Learning, Future Students, International students, school of law
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