Calling on Young People to Have Their Say
4 April 2017 at 8:30 am
Young Australians are being called on to express their “thoughts, concerns and aspirations” as part of the largest annual nationwide poll of young people.
Community service organisation Mission Australia launched its annual youth survey on Monday, coinciding with National Youth Week.
Young people aged between 15 and 19 are encouraged to have their say on issues that matter to them in a bid to provide a snapshot of young Australians and help inform policy and decision making.
Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans told Pro Bono News it was important to listen to the voices of young people and act on that feedback.
“We value the views of Australian young people,” Yeomans said.
“By checking in annually to find out what’s really going on in their lives, it means organisations like ours have access to up-to-date evidence so we can advocate on their behalf for the services and broader policy changes that they need, and that are proven to work.”
In 2016, the top three issues identified by young people as most important in Australia were alcohol and drugs, equity and discrimination, and mental health, which entered the top three for the first time in the 15 year history of reporting.
Young people also continued to nominate coping with stress, school or study problems and body image as their top three issues of personal concern.
With mental health issues also increasingly identified as personal concerns for young people.
Yeomans said mental health would be an interesting area to watch this year.
“The fact that it has been increasing probably suggests that it may not disappear from this years survey, so it will be interesting to see whether that is going to further increase or whether it is going to stabilize,” she said.
“And that just goes to show the importance of having these surveys on an annual basis, so that we can actually start to see trends and see if some issues are becoming more prominent in the minds of young people and the concerns of young people as well.
“So it will be an interesting area to watch, we’ve also got some focus questions this year around housing and homelessness as well because we think this is an area that we would like to understand a little bit more from young people as well.”
The annual survey has a core set of questions to allow for year on year comparison with additional questions to focus on a particular area.
‘We are really wanting to ask the young people about concerns around housing and homelessness as well as some barriers about achieving post-school goals because we know that the young people are facing a lot of challenges really in making that transition from schooling into either further education or employment,” Yeomans said.
She said it was timely to launch the survey during National Youth Week and ahead of Youth Homelessness Matters Day on Wednesday.
“It really is a timely bringing together not only of hearing the voice of young people during the course of National Youth Week, but also the fact that we have got Youth Homelessness Matters during that week. I think this issue resonates,” she said.
“What we’re seeing more broadly, outside of what the young people are telling us in the youth survey, in terms of people accessing our services right across the country, is that there is no doubt that homelessness is increasing.
“It is increasing at all age groups but what we know sadly, is that 40 per cent of the people who are homeless on any given night are under the age of 25. So unfortunately young people are overrepresented in the homelessness statistic so we really want to hear their voice as well.”
Yeomans said we needed to do more to listen to young Australians.
“I think we need to do more to listen to the voice of young people and really understand what life are they living in today’s society, and as the more mature people in our society, are we actually creating the environment that understanding their aspirations, equipping them for their future and helping thiem realise those aspirations as well,” she said.
“There has been talk around should we have a ministerial responsibility for young people, there are arguments for it on both sides of politics, for and against, I’m not so much sure whether we have a view of whether there needs to be a specific minister or not, there needs to be an understanding across all portfolios about the impact on young people, whether that is employment, education, housing or social services.
“We’ve got to make sure that we listen to the voices of young people and so we hope that the data from our youth survey is going to help young people’s voices to be heard.
“That’s why we really want young people to participate. We’ve got nothing to say to policy makers unless we actually hear from young people.”
Last year the survey attracted 22,000 participants.
Yeomans said Mission Australia hoped to surpass that record in 2017 with its 16th annual Youth Survey.
“A vast number of schools, community youth groups, sporting teams, community service organisations and church groups take part in the Youth Survey every year,” she said.
“This year, we encourage more schools and groups to come on board and participate. The more people that get involved, the more inclusive, insightful and representative of the broader youth community the results will be.
“We want even more than 22,000. We need to hear their voice.
“It is the 16th year that we are running this survey so it is clearly well regarded, we make these survey results widely available, we know they are widely utilised by many groups that are interacting with young people, not just policy makers and ministerial advisors as well. So it is a valuable piece of research so we would like to have a wide participation.”
The survey closes on 31 July 2017, with results to be analysed and released before the end of the year.
For more information see here.