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‘We must act now’: Barriers uncovered for young people with disability


20 May 2020 at 3:44 pm
Maggie Coggan
The Mission Australia Youth Survey has taken a disability lens to its data for the first time


Maggie Coggan | 20 May 2020 at 3:44 pm


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‘We must act now’: Barriers uncovered for young people with disability
20 May 2020 at 3:44 pm

The Mission Australia Youth Survey has taken a disability lens to its data for the first time

Young people with disability are more likely to report poor mental health and are twice as likely to have been bullied in the past year than young people without disability, according to data analysis from Mission Australia. 

The new analysis, released on Wednesday, has been pulled from Mission Australia’s 2019 Youth Survey and marks the first time the charity has analysed its Youth Survey data with a focus on the experiences of people with disability.

Mental health for young people with disability was found to be a major concern. Nearly half of all young people with disability who were surveyed had experienced mental health problems, compared with 30 per cent for their able-bodied peers. One in four young people with disability were concerned with suicide, compared with 13.5 per cent of young people without disability.

Young people with disability were also twice as likely as their peers to be bullied in the past 12 months, with two in five young people with disability reporting being bullied (43 per cent compared with 19 per cent).  

When it came to education and employment, the outlook was slightly more positive with eight in 10 respondents with disability found to be studying full-time, and nearly 50 per cent planning on going to university. 

But the number of young people with disability not studying is still more than double that of their peers (9.4 per cent compared with 3.6 per cent), showing young people with disability are at greater risk of becoming disengaged in their study. 

In response to the findings, Mission Australia said it was now aiming for greater consultation and collaboration with young people with disability and more action to address their concerns, improve their wellbeing, and remove the physical, structural and social barriers that impact their lives.

 Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said it was critical that society didn’t just accept these findings as the norm and realised that real action can be taken. 

 “We must act now to ensure a whole-of-community approach across all life domains, and consult with young people with disability, so we can work together to foster true inclusion and accessibility and better support young people with disability as they transition to adulthood,” Toomey said. 

 “This is more important than ever as the Australian economy picks up after COVID-19 restrictions lift, to ensure that this group of young people doesn’t get left even further behind.”

He said the findings exposed an urgent need for a national campaign that de-stigmatised disability and prevented the bullying of young people with disability. He called for a national education plan and a national jobs plan, developed in consultation with young people with disability, to break down barriers across all areas of their lives. 

“They need more access to vital opportunities so they can better connect with their communities, friends and families and lead fulfilling lives and thrive into the future,” Toomey said. 

Read a full copy of the report here. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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