Australia Falling Behind in Engaging Young People
31 May 2011 at 3:49 pm
Australia is in severe danger of losing its place amongst the top innovative countries unless there is a dramatic shift in the way young people are engaged with, according to Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians and founder of the CREATE Foundation.
Owen says in a recent study, over 71% of all media reports about young people were shown to be negative. Furthermore, 1 in 3 young people feel negative or even hopeless about their future.
All the important social movements of the last century have been led by inspiring young people, says Owen. In Australia, the 1980s was all about empowering young people, the 1990s was about participation, but over the last decade Australia has fallen completely behind in willingness to back young people.
Owen says that we need to invest in young people and innovation – it’s about transition, inclusion and global citizenship. All young people need to know that they can be change makers, wherever they are, and it’s not always about addressing the big issues, they can be change agents in their local communities.
Owens was addressing over 500 youth workers at the Australians Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) conference – the first national youth sector conference in Australia since 2007 – in Sydney. The conference aims to cover issues around youth policy, development and practice. The conference theme for 2011 is: Interrupting Transmission: youth | change | policy | practice.
Drawing on the stories of six Australian high-achieving social entrepreneurs, Owens says that sometimes they had just one person who believed in them or who said yes to them. Examples included Jack Manning Bancroft, founder of Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience and Lucinda Hartley, founder of Architects Without Frontiers, which links architects with projects in the developing world. Each of the entrepreneurs came from different disciplines and not all had tertiary qualifications or had grown up in situations of privilege, Owens insisted.
Owens says there are 5 critical things Australia must do.Help young people develop networks and connections to make their ideas happen, co-invest in young people and their ideas, broaden the talent pool of those who are working with young people, and establish more internship and mentoring programs and then get out of the way.
Owens vision for the future includes quadruple the amount of people working with youth and a much greater profile for the profession. In Finland when they raised the pay of teachers by 10% the recognition it gave the profession and subsequent boost in talent is estimated to have been worth 10 times that of the initial investment. The cost of failing to invest in replacing the talent in our workforce and the quality of the next generation of leaders is in the range of billions of dollars, says Owen.
*This report was filed for Pro Bono Australia News by Tamara Newman