Young Australians From Disadvantaged Areas are Voiceless Says New Report
24 October 2017 at 12:01 am
Young people from low socio-economic areas are often excluded from having a say in the issues affecting them and have a lack of trust in the community, according to a new report from Mission Australia.
The Concepts of Community report, released on Tuesday, examined findings from Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2016, and found that cycles of intergenerational disadvantage were limiting the potential of people in low socio-economic status (SES) areas.
The report drew on responses from the 21,049 young people who completed the Youth Survey 2016, breaking respondents down into high, moderate or low SES areas, based on their postcodes.
It found that only 26 per cent of young people in low SES areas agreed or strongly agreed that they could trust most people in their community, compared to more than 50 per cent of young people in high SES areas.
Young Australians from low SES areas were also the most likely to identify personal safety, bullying/emotional abuse, suicide and family conflict as issues of personal concern to them.
Nearly all young people surveyed (99.3 per cent) said they were seriously concerned about the use of at least one type of drug in their community, with alcohol and drugs identified as the most important issue facing young Australians.
Catherine Yeomans, Mission Australia CEO, said these findings should inform the development of policies, services and programs to benefit young people, particularly those from low SES areas.
“Where young people live has an impact not only on their personal identity and social connections, but also on their access to opportunities,” Yeomans said.
“Young people from disadvantaged areas can be left behind from their earliest years in life, as a result of having fewer opportunities and resources. This can lead to poorer life outcomes in terms of education, employment, housing and health.
“We need to break the cycles of intergenerational disadvantage found in low SES areas in every state and territory of Australia, so we can start to level out the playing field for young people and ensure they have the chance to achieve their full potential, regardless of where they live.”
The report made a number of recommendations to address these issues and strengthen the “outcomes and lifetime trajectories for all young people”.
“Young people’s participation in a broad range of social, cultural, volunteering and mentoring activities at school or within their local communities should be supported to enhance their social networks and trust with other members of their community,” the report said.
“Policies and programs must be put in place to overcome barriers to participation for young people from low SES communities, including financial barriers.”
To combat discrimination, the report recommended that: “Educational institutions from early childhood to university should be funded and supported to deliver comprehensive and age-appropriate education programs focusing on equality and diversity to combat discrimination.
“Governments and community organisations should continue to support campaigns to promote gender equality and reduce the incidence of violence against young women and children at a community level.”
Yeomans said another response to combat social disadvantage was the implementation of placed-based approaches, which are collaborations between community organisations, governments and community members.
“What’s needed is a whole of community response that not only focuses on young people, but builds up strengths within the broader community. Mission Australia’s Strengthening Communities approach responds to the needs of communities that are experiencing deep, persistent and concentrated disadvantage,” she said.
“This is achieved through collaboration, place-making projects, tailored services and evaluation, to help us identify the policies and programs that actually get results.
“Young people from all backgrounds are concerned about alcohol and drug use in their communities, but those living in low SES areas were considerably more concerned about the use of all drugs, particularly methamphetamines.
“It is essential that young people have a say in the issues that affect them. The Mission Australia Youth Survey and reports like this one provide a platform for young people’s voices. It is now up to governments, businesses and organisations to ensure they are actively involved in the design of programs that are being created to improve their lives and their well-being.”
Emily is a 20 year old living in Clarendon Vale, Tasmania. She is currently studying at university to become a teacher and is working part time as a disability support worker.
She is the first person in her family in generations to go to university and has observed a high level of alcohol and drug-fuelled violence, domestic violence and low employment rates among some members of her community, which has caused negative stereotyping and stigmatising from people outside her SES area.
Emily told Pro Bono News that she felt there was a lack of access to amenities and supports in her community, and she said young people needed to have a greater say on the issues that affected them.
“Young people need opportunities to have their say on issues that will have a real impact on their lives. Until young people get to tell their stories, people won’t really understand what they’re going through,” Emily said.
“What we need are support people that we can talk to who will give good advice and not be judgemental. I’ve found some supportive people in my community who have helped me when I’ve needed it, but not every young person can make those kinds of connections easily.
“There needs to be more of an opportunity for young people to branch out and actually do things.There are some people who want to do courses, but they cost so much and their families don’t have the money available. Those kinds of things would make a big difference to some people.”
Emily recently received the One Community Together Young Leader award for her contributions to the community.
She said she had met inspiring people in her community who could provide the necessary support, and encouraged young people from low SES areas to make the most of their opportunities to get ahead in life.
“I’d definitely say some people have struggled to get somewhere in life because people ask where they live and they’re like: ‘Oh, it’s Clarendon Vale’. But in my experience you can grow up in Clarendon Vale and make decisions that mean you can still have good outcomes,” she said.
“There are opportunities, you just have to look for them and work for them.”