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07 March 2014

Group of students taking a photo in a cafe. It is the generation of Australians who were born to the beat of the Macarena; who have never experienced life without the internet; and for whom climate change has always been on the agenda. 

They are the class of 2014 – a cohort largely made up of students who completed Year 12 in 2013 – and they start university this week. The majority of these first-year students were born in or around 1996 and belong in the demographic known as ‘Millenials’.

Dr Collette Snowden from the University of South Australia says these students will have entirely different points of references to the lecturers and tutors they will encounter at university.

“For these students, the rapper Tupac Shakur has always been dead,” Dr Snowden says.

“In the year most of them were born, John Howard led the coalition to Federal election victory, defeating Paul Keating’s Labor government to begin more than a decade of Liberal political dominance at the Federal level.

“For academics, these differences require consideration of the case studies, examples and references to people and events to ensure that they are relevant and meaningful to a new cohort of students.”  

Dr Snowden, a lecturer at UniSA’s Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences, says the generation were born in turbulent year.

“In 1996, the whole world was shocked by the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, when Martin Bryant killed 35 people and injured 21 in a shooting spree at the Port Arthur historic site in Tasmania,” Dr Snowden says.

“The Federal Government response on gun control became a defining feature of the Howard government.

“Globally, bombings occurred in a wide range of places including at the Atlanta Olympics, IRA bombings in South Quay, London and in Manchester; the Khobar Tower Barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia; at Worcester in South Africa; and in Central Columbo by Tamil Tigers.

“For the class of 2014, drought has been an almost constant meteorological phenomenon for most of their lives, with the Millenium drought beginning in 1996, and not ending until 2009.”

The year was not all doom and gloom - people around the world were grooving to the Macarena and the Australian film Shine debuted with Geoffrey Rush winning an Academy Award for his performance. 

“The class of 2014 also share their year of birth with a number of famous musicians, including Lorde and Birdy, as well as renowned actor Abigail Breslin, one of the youngest actresses ever to be nominated for an Academy Award,” Dr Snowden says.  

And while the class of 2014 may share their birth year with some of the rising stars of our time, they may not be the owners of rising bank accounts.

“According to the head of the Australian Reserve Bank, Bernie Fraser, in 1996, this generation were not destined to be great savers. For most of their lives, as the economy grew, credit became more freely available and saving for the future was not a strong societal goal,” Dr Snowden.

“As these students head to university with smart technology in hand but with empty hip pockets, we will have to wait and see how they themselves will be remembered in history.”  

Media Contact

Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au

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