One in 10 Young Indigenous Men Rate Happiness at ‘Zero’
7 September 2016 at 3:43 pm
One in 10 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and 5 per cent of young women rate their happiness as zero, compared to just 1 per cent of non-Indigenous young people, sparking calls for urgent action.
In new analysis from Mission Australia one-quarter of Indigenous young people also reported high levels of concern about depression, and one in five reported high levels of concern about suicide.
Comparatively, one in 10 non-Indigenous young people indicated high levels of concern about suicide – a difference which Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said was “really quite stark”.
“We need to ask ourselves, what would have to be happening in that young person’s life for them to, when presented with that question, actually chose zero happiness?” Yeomans told Pro Bono Australia News.
“And that’s what we really need to reflect on as a society, how can we have a group of young people with such high levels of despair?”
The data comes from Mission Australia’s annual Youth Survey, the largest of its kind in Australia.
Last year there were more than 18,000 respondents between 15 and 19 years of age, with 1,100 identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The data from that cohort of 1,100 has recently been analysed for the new report.
While the survey doesn’t ask reasons for a given happiness rating, Yeomans said systemic disadvantage facing Indigenous Australians was likely a contributing factor.
“What we do know is that the rates of homelessness, concerns about drug and alcohol issues, experience in the justice system, concerns around discrimination – all of these are very real issues for members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” she said.
The survey found Indigenous young people were more likely than non-Indigenous young people to to have spent time away from home in the past three years because they felt they couldn’t return.
These incidents didn’t occur in isolation – more than one-third of all Indigenous young people who spent time away from home reported having done so at least 10 times over the past three years.
Yeomans said service providers needed an “urgent rethink” of how they deliver programs, to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were put at the centre of decision making.
“Clearly what we’re doing at the moment is not working,” she said.
“Are we actually privileging their voice, are we asking them what their concerns are in detail and working with them on what the solutions might be?
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who responded to this survey also have aspirations for their future. They want to get a job, they do value education, they do have strong relationships with family and friends.
“But… clearly they see barriers in their way, so we need to actually put them at the centre of identifying what those barriers are and working to remove those barriers.
“There are many organisations working with members of our community on a range of issues. So what we need to do is come together and address this issue.”
She also said government had a responsibility to prioritise Indigenous young people.
“First of all, we think the government has to put addressing the disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people as a national priority,” she said.
“We know right across the country… juvenile justice systems [are ] overrepresented [by] the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in the homelessness statistics.
“What we tend to do, as a society, is actually look at these as individual issues. What we are saying is we actually need to look at it in a more holistic way, consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, understanding their perspectives and acknowledging the roles of the past and how we actually make them right for the future.
“Policies must be made with and not for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And we really believe that program approaches need to be long-term and adequately funded and evidence based.
“We have too much of a history in this country of a stop-start approach… we’ve really got to stop doing this and actually take a much longer-term view if we’re really going to change the future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and help them achieve their aspirations, because they have aspirations just like every other young person does.”