WA Governor Malcolm McCusker

Governor Malcolm McCusker is concerned some young people do not value democracy or know the meaning of Australia Day beyond a day off work.

In his Australia Day address yesterday, Mr McCusker also suggested mandatory civics classes in schools.

He said some young people did not understand the significance of January 26 and the number who failed to register to vote suggested they did not see democracy as important.

"It's a discomfiting fact that a recent poll of young Australians showed some had no idea whatever what the event was all about, except as an opportunity to have a day off and watch some fireworks and in some cases, sadly, get drunk," he said.

Another survey revealed a significant number of young Australians did not believe democracy was important, as evidenced by the many 18-year-olds who simply ignored registering to vote for the last Federal election.

Mr McCusker acknowledged January 26, when the First Fleet arrived in NSW, as Australia Day was "not without its critics" and discussed other significant dates such as Federation and the referendum that recognised Australia's original inhabitants.

"Australians are notoriously reluctant to agree to any amendment of the Constitution so it says something for the dawning enlightenment of Australia that amendments giving proper recognition were passed by a resounding majority," he said.

He also reflected on what was unique about Australians. "I've heard many times visitors from overseas remark on the friendliness of Australians and their lack of pomposity and I think that's one of many attributes of Australians generally," he said.

He quoted a letter from the Greek Ambassador he received yesterday praising the heroic efforts of WA firefighters and the community spirit.

An Education Department spokesman said civics and citizenship were part of the curriculum in WA.

The West Australian

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