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Youth Peak Bodies Call on Turnbull to Appoint Youth Minister

17 April 2018 at 4:09 pm
Luke Michael
Australia’s peak bodies for youth affairs have called on the federal government to better address the needs of young people, by reinstating a minister for youth and funding a national youth peak body.

Luke Michael | 17 April 2018 at 4:09 pm


Youth Peak Bodies Call on Turnbull to Appoint Youth Minister
17 April 2018 at 4:09 pm

Australia’s peak bodies for youth affairs have called on the federal government to better address the needs of young people, by reinstating a minister for youth and funding a national youth peak body.    

To mark Youth Week, a coalition of youth peak bodies including The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC), the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVIC) and Youth Action NSW have urged the federal government to remedy a “deliberate disconnection from young people”.

The state peak bodies have called on the Turnbull government to appoint a minister for young people, commit to funding a national youth affairs peak body and to reinstate National Youth Week funding to celebrate young people’s achievements.

AYAC chair Katie Acheson said the Australian government needed to “tangibly demonstrate” that it was committed to the country’s 4.3 million young people.

“Young people are facing sustained high youth unemployment rates, worrying spikes in youth homelessness, record low housing affordability and difficulties transitioning from education to work,” Acheson said.

“Appointing a minister for youth to drive a cross-government national youth strategy from within cabinet, and funding a national youth affairs peak body to represent young people, would ensure the issues that impact young people’s lives are considered and inform decision making and policy development at a national level.

“The Australian government must put official mechanisms in place to connect with young people and ensure they are able to participate in decision making that affects their lives.”  

The federal government has not had a minister for youth since the Abbott government scrapped the portfolio after winning the 2013 election, while Labor also has not included a youth minister in their shadow cabinet.

YACVIC CEO Leo Fieldgrass told Pro Bono News that the federal government had taken “concerted steps to distance itself from young Australians” in recent years.  

“We currently have within the cabinet a minister for aged [care], yet we have more young Australians in the population than we have aged Australians,” Fieldgrass said.

“Young people have demonstrated particularly in the recent same-sex postal survey how much they want to have a say and be involved in issues that affect the wider community, but the Australian government is giving young people no mechanism to do that.”

Fieldgrass said a minister for youth would offer young people a “champion” within government.

“Having a champion within cabinet and across government will ensure that the government is adequately responding to issues affecting young people and their families,” he said.

“And it would be a tangible commitment from the government to young people to say ‘we hear you and understand there are particular issues that you’re facing and we value your ideas and contributions’.”

The YACVIC CEO said while young Australians felt disconnected and pushed away from federal politics, it was unfair to characterise them as apathetic.  

“We know that young people are vitally interested in issues affecting their lives and they want to be involved in creating solutions and taking advantage of opportunities to support themselves, their peers, their families and their communities,” Fieldgrass said.

“There are a number of states that are doing a much better job than the Australian government in demonstrating their commitment to young people. National Youth Week funding is a prime example of this.

“The federal government cut funding for National Youth Week so we no longer have one. We have state-based youth weeks because states and territories on the whole have bridged the gap and are rightly celebrating the contributions of their younger citizens.”

Fieldgrass added that there would be “huge consequences if the federal government continues to ignore young people”.

“Young people have demonstrated that they are hugely interested in the issues that are affecting their generation and other generations, so issues of climate change, issues of equality etc,” he said.

“If young people don’t feel like they are being heard in these debates, then the risk to the government is that young people will disconnect completely and there are now more young people registered to vote than ever before through the same-sex postal survey.

“So any government that is ignoring young people is playing a dangerous game when it comes to the next federal election, because young people have the capacity to swing the vote in a number of electorates.”

In March last year, federal MPs Rebekha Sharkie and Cath McGowan, along with Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, presented motions in both houses of parliament calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to appoint a minister for youth affairs.

When presenting the motion, Sharkie said young people were not being represented by the Turnbull government.

“As a nation, we are not considering the needs of young people. For the next generation to be employed, we need full employment to ensure that our rapidly ageing population is managed, and managed well, in retirement,” Sharkie said.

“To not have a dedicated minister for young people in this parliament is an opportunity lost. And so I implore our prime minister: be future thinking, be agile, be different to your predecessor and appoint a minister for young people.”

When Sharkie asked Turnbull in question time whether he would appoint a minister for young people, the prime minister replied that his current ministry was adequately representing young Australians.

“I am honoured to lead a thoroughly youthful ministry – some of us more young at heart than young in years, but all of us thoroughly committed to delivering great opportunities for young Australians,” Turnbull said.

“Of course, everything we are doing is designed to deliver greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

“I can assure the honourable member that the young people of Australia are always very much in the forefront of our minds, whether we are very young members of parliament or perhaps grandfathers like myself.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


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