Y Vote goes Heywire: LGBT+ rights, the youth vote and a progressive future

By Novan Sachrudi. April 10 2016.

Jesse Chaffey: journo student, writer, Heywire 2015 winner and Lady Gaga minion. 

Jesse Chaffey: journo student, writer, Heywire 2015 winner and Lady Gaga minion. 

Jesse Chaffey is a final-year journalism student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, where he will graduate in September. For the last year and a half, Jesse has written over 60 stories for a Brisbane street press, including arts reviews, interview features and general news. In late 2015, he was selected among over 600 people to represent regional Australia with 45 others in ABC’s ‘Heywire’ competition, where he spoke about LGBT+ issues, and his experiences growing up gay.

Jesse’s main interests are pop culture, technology and music. He’s a die-hard fan of Lady Gaga, who he idolises for her messages about self-acceptance and equality. His dream is to write for a pop-culture based publication in New York City.

Follow Jesse on Twitter.

Jesse, happy Monday! What's happening on your side of the splendid Division of Petrie?
(an electorate in Brisbane for those of you playing at home).

Not too much! It's almost week five of uni so assessments are starting to get a little hectic but I graduate in a few months, so I'm just looking forward to that!

That's pretty exciting! Not too long to go, and I'm sure it'll fly by. Still blows my mind that it's April already.

I know. Completely crazy. Time has had this really odd way of suddenly speeding up over the last few years.

Way to make me feel old haha. But luckily we're all still "young voters" (ages 18-30) so we've got some time still. And speaking of which, we've estimated that about 8740 young folks didn't cast a formal vote in Petrie at the last election. How do you feel about that?

Well that's pretty crazy. I'm not 100% sure about how many votes people tend to win or lose by, but I bet over eight and a half thousand people could have made all the difference.

For sure! It looked pretty tight in Petrie. On a two-candidate basis, the winning candidate won by a margin of only 871 votes. So, 8740 is plenty. And it's a pretty significant chunk in our estimate of around 800,000 young people Australia-wide who didn't vote at the last election. Ouch!

 800,000 is even crazier. Woah.

Yup, but I'll put the numbers aside for now, because I wanna talk about you. First of all, congratulations on your winning Heywire entry. Do you want to tell us a little bit about it?

My Heywire entry was actually not even a Heywire entry to begin with. It was a little film I created for an industry project at uni (University of the Sunshine Coast) run by the ABC, called ABC Open where anyone can submit stories, videos and photos. Our assignment was to track down a group of people around the Sunshine Coast who were part of a group, club, or a community. I wanted to think a little outside the box, so instead of focusing on something like a bowls club, or a sport group, or a group of friends, I thought I'd take advantage of the word "community" and focus on the LGBT community.

I'm friends with a guy at my uni who was part of this group there called the Queer Collective. What that is, is literally just a bunch of LGBT+ people who get together weekly, and just hang out. They talk about life, they go on hikes, they have lunch, they spend time with each other. And so, I just thought, what a perfect group of people to focus on. Not only is it a small "community" at uni, but it's also the LGBT community, so I figured I was being a bit clever by using that word in more than one sense.

Gimme an H!...  Source:  blogs.abc.net.au

Gimme an H!... Source: blogs.abc.net.au

Post-production and post-edit, my tutor for ABC Open suggested I enter it into ABC Heywire. Admittedly I had absolutely no clue what that was. So I did a little research, saw that it was a chance for young, regional people to share their story, and kind of jumped at the chance. So I entered my film, and out of 700 country-wide entrants, turns out I was one of the 45 that won.


That's a pretty cool back story. What I really like about the winning entries is that they were all deeply personal, whether it was about life in a rural or remote town, a station, a farm, moving to the city from the country, disability or challenging their communities. Of course with yours, it was about the Queer Collective at your uni, but also grounded in your own sexuality and experiences to perhaps make a broader statement about LBGT+ acceptance, wouldn't you say?

Absolutely. It definitely helps that I'm gay myself I guess, because I have the experience to back it up. But that's not to say a straight person couldn't do it too, in fact I encourage people outside the LGBT+ community to speak out about our rights. It makes an issue more human when someone who isn't directly involved with the issue speaks about it. Makes people feel like they can make a difference and stand for LGBT+ rights even though they aren't gay, or transgender, or lesbian, and so on.

I'm with you on that one. More broadly, I think that making an informed and impactful vote means that you have to stand up for, or at least think about issues and policies that may not affect you directly, but might be key parts of a particular party or candidate's policies and vision.

Yeah absolutely! It's good to look out for each other, regardless of whether things affect us or not!

I like it. So, would it be safe to say that policies regarding LGBT+ rights will be influencing your vote at the next election?

Oh absolutely. That's pretty much at the top of my list. As well as things related to uni students, hahaha. In terms of politics, I honestly don't think too in depth about stuff. Politics and the government.. it's never been a massive interest of mine. That said though, I have enough common sense to know what's good for our country and what isn't. And I try to be aware of what certain candidates stand for.

I know what you mean. Unfortunately for me, I'm a politics and government nerd, so I'm constantly in the deep end. But it's given me an appreciation for how important it is for people. For example, even when it's not something they're particularly interested in, I think we find pretty quickly that there's at least a couple of things that really affect their day-to-day lives which might be worth them finding a little bit more about. This is why I like having these kinds of conversations with a bunch of other young people with various concerns and views, because it highlights that you don't need to know or care about everything to become engaged.

On that note, if LGBTQ+ is at the top of your list, what are two other issues that will be influencing your vote?

I would say university fees and finances, and climate change.

"Hmm.. seems legit"  Source: Lucas Coch/AAP

"Hmm.. seems legit" Source: Lucas Coch/AAP

You've chosen some big-ticket issues there, and I can understand why. Jesse, you're a journalism student right?

I am indeed!

I'm sure that's has left you with some wisdom regarding staying informed and good sources! Any hot tips? And how do you like to stay informed about current events and issues that matter to you?

My favourite ways to stay informed about things that interest me and matter to me are - sorry to be such a stereotypical 21 year old - social media and the internet. News.com.au is amazing, and obviously the Sunshine Coast Daily website to keep up with stuff where I go to uni. And also, speaking more generally, I like to use Twitter. It's pretty much the first place news breaks these days. There's nowhere more instant to report breaking news, which in a way is kind of sad because of how much more in-the-dark traditional news mediums are. But it's also incredible, because of how fast news can travel.

It's a sign of the times and I don't think there's anything wrong with it! It's information at your fingertips. It's literally never been easier to get a hold of. And it sounds like you've got your finger on the pulse when it comes to both national and regional goings-on.

Jesse, one final question: what would you say to young people who are thinking of not voting or doing the dodgy at the next election?

Young people are our hope for the future. It's common sense. The older our world gets, the more we've become aware of real, human issues. The more our eyes have been opened. In relation to LGBT+ rights - although this can stem through to so much more - the amount of young people that stand for them compared to, let’s say, ten years ago, is astounding. It's completely incredible to me, it makes me so happy. We have the power to influence what the future holds. It's really quite amazing how much of an influence we have. And so I guess what I'm trying to say is if young people with progressive minds don't vote, we might miss out on having a progressive future. For young voters, the more they decide "I’m just going to miss it" or "I’ll just pretend to write something down", the less chance our future has of looking bright. Our voices deserve to be heard because they matter, and a majority of people around our age have been brought up in a time where minority groups are being looked at like normal humans. Let's keep that going. It's not taxing, it's not time consuming; it's the future. And ultimately, it's in our hands.

Damn.... No kidding, that was pretty inspirational mate! Heard loud and clear. Well, I'm stoked that you've taken time out of a busy work and study schedule to chat to me! Thanks Jesse, it's been real  

Thanks so much for this! Shout out to the Queer Collective at USC, I wouldn't have won Heywire and been presented with so many opportunities since then if it wasn't for you amazing people.

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