12-year-old rookie reporter holds her own in the political press pack

"Rookie" Maya Saathi, 12, has been reporting on the Australian elections for the country's national broadcaster. (YouTube/ Behind The News)

Australians are heading to the polls for a national election on Saturday, and holding her own among the roiling scrum of the political press pack covering the horserace is intrepid 12-year-old ‘Rookie Reporter’ Maya Saathi, filing a daily news report to children’s channel ABC3.

The bright 7th-grader is fascinated by politics, and is a member of her school’s debating team, reported. It probably also helped that it was not the tween’s first time in front of the camera, having made her film debut in the 2015 romantic-comedy UnIndian.

“I’m really excited to meet [opposition Labor leader] Bill Shorten and [conservative prime minister] Malcolm Turnbull and to ask them some things … like what kind of decisions do they have to make? What do they do under pressure? What is their daily routine?” she said, after finding out she had been awarded the gig from a field of more than 250 young applicants.

Saathi managed to get her questions answered (on the environment and STEM subjects) at press conferences for both Shorten and Turnbull, as well as being granted longer interviews with the leader of the Greens party, the senate opposition leader, the minister for defence, the minister for women, the minister for education and his opposition counterpart and the former deputy prime minister, besting several major outlets for access to the election’s key players.

In an interview this week with fellow-ABC reporter Jeremy Fernandez, Saathi talked about the big learning curve she had been on, and the pleasure of helping other children understand the issues at stake in the election this weekend. “I guess when you put a kid in a reporter’s shoes and get them to do all the things a normal reporter would, it’s kind of more interesting to other kids, [to think]: ‘Someone my age is doing this so maybe I should take an interest as well,'” she said.

As voting is compulsory for Australian citizens once they turn 18 (failure to vote can result in a fine or a court appearance), becoming engaged with the issues as a teenager is less precocious than it might appear.

Before she could join the campaign trail, Saathi attended a “bootcamp” with the ABC’s seasoned political reporters, to learn “how to interrogate a politician, how to hunt down ground-breaking stories and how to wade through the polls and statistics to work out trends and make predictions,” according to the ABC website.

Maya Saathi, 12, won a gig reporting on the Australian national elections from a field of more than 250 applicants. (YouTube/Behind The News)

Maya Saathi, 12, won a gig reporting on the Australian national elections from a field of more than 250 applicants. (YouTube/Behind The News)

“They gave me reporting tips and interview tips as well as some prep tips,” she told, adding that she is equipped with a folder of photos of the most important political players, keep track of who’s who.

“The best tips were to keep asking questions and on keeping calm under pressure. I do get nervous sometimes but with all the practice I’ve had I feel pretty confident.”

If Saathi is in need of inspiration, the young journalist need look no further than 9-year-old Hilde Kate Lysiak, who founded the Orange Street News and has been known to scoop her adult competitors, or 10-year-old Janna Jihad Ayyad, who broadcasts news coverage of protests, checkpoint showdowns, and violence against Palestinian children from the West Bank.

Reuters reported on Friday that the Australian election was too close to call, with one poll showing Labour and the ruling conservative coalition locked in a dead heat.


Watch all of Saathi’s Rookie Reporter interviews at The ABC.


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