Youth Action has made three pre-budget submissions to the NSW Government's budget process. These addressed career guidance, youth employment and youth suicide prevention. Our submissions outlined specific recommendations for investments the NSW Government could make in the 2018-19 state budget to improve outcomes for young people.
Download each submission here
In 2017 Youth Action ran What's Up West? Youth Conference. We had an amazing time with 250 young people over two days in Bankstown, and we joined by 20 organisations to run 37 workshops to give young people the skills they need to be change-makers in their community.
During the conference we also asked young people what they thought about their local community and some of the big issues that impact on their lives like education and employment, health and wellbeing, and the future of the Western Sydney region.
We’ve put all that together into this report, which we’re sending to major stakeholders in the region, including local ministers.
If you’re interested in how the future of Western Sydney might look, or if you believe in the value young people bring to these important conversations, have a read to find out more.
In 2017 Youth Action provided a submission to the NSW Parliament's Inquiry into the Prevention of Youth Suicide. Our submission highlighted the gaps and coordination and integration of suicide prevention activities and programs across all levels of government, the provision of services in regional and rural areas and the provision of services for vulnerable and at-risk groups.
We made 11 recommendations to the Inquiry, including to:
Introduce compulsory mental health first aid training for general practitioners, suicide prevention providers, frontline workers and those who have high contact with young people (police, paramedics, nurses, social workers, teachers etc.).
Introduce compulsory cultural and social awareness training for general practitioners, suicide prevention providers, frontline workers and those who have a high contact rate with young people (police, paramedics, nurses, social workers, teachers etc.) aimed at increasing awareness specific circumstances of groups affected by high rates of youth suicide.
Ensure that NSW Government funding and resources are directed to programs and services run by community organisations that are representative of the vulnerable group the program is aimed at. Where services already exist, or this is not possible, ensure that members from the vulnerable or at-risk group across all demographics are thoroughly consulted and their input and ideas are incorporated into relevant programs, services and policies.
Increase funding for suicide prevention activities that target vulnerable and at-risk populations through community-service providers with track records of delivering successful programs
Increase the number of Student Support Officers in schools as part of Supported Students, Successful Students and provide information to school principals detailing the effectiveness of the program for student mental health and wellbeing.
Submission to Revenge Porn / Sharing of intimate images without consent discussion paper
October 2016: This year the Attorney General called for submissions regarding ‘revenge porn’ – also known as the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. Measures regarding revenge porn would likely have an impact on young people who sext or share intimate images.
Youth Action response highlighted some core principles that required consideration:
- the ability to develop a healthy sexuality as an essential component of an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing
- Sharing intimate images as increasingly a part of young people’s self-expression and sexual agency
- The right to information, to access sexual health services, and to freedom of expression
- Juvenile justice principles
- gaps and legal inconsistencies in the form of protection and address for young people who sext as well as those who have their images shared without their consent
- the need to avoid unnecessary criminalisation of young people
- the need for quick redress, that doesn’t rely on a young person navigating the court and justice systems
- the need for education on respectful relationships, ethics and consent, rather than an approach that promotes simply refraining from sexting
A healthy sexuality is an essential component of a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. Young people should have the freedom to experience their individual sexual development at their own pace and in a way that is clearly led by independent and informed thinking.
However, the sexualisation of young people within the media, as well as their exposure to sexualised images aimed at adult audiences, has been an ongoing issue of public debate in Australia, the US, and the UK throughout the past decade. The Australia Institute’s 2006 Corporate Paedophilia report, for example, roundly condemned what the authors considered to be the growing phenomenon of sexualisation, and explored several examples of what they deemed to be the inappropriately sexual depiction of children in mainstream Australian media. The following year, an American Psychological Association task force responded to expressions of public concern regarding the sexualisation of girls. In the UK, a commissioned review of the sexualisation of young people focused on the possible effects of sexualised media on violence against women and girls. Alternative perspectives, however, have opposed seemingly blanket condemnation of sexualisation and have called for more rigorous, evidence-based academic research into the issue.
Sexualisation is contested, and the debate has uncovered a wide range of perspectives, ideas, and avenues of research on a number of possible impacts of sexualisation on young people, As the peak organisation for young people and youth services in NSW, Youth Action is pleased to submit to this inquiry, and congratulate the NSW Government for its focus on the health and wellbeing of young people, including their sexual health. In submitting to the inquiry, Youth Action has responded to the following terms of reference:
- The exposure of children and young people in NSW to sexualised images and content in public places, electronic, print and social media and marketing;
- The impact on children and young people of growing up in a sexualised culture;
- Adequacy of current measures at state and federal level to regulate sexualised imagery in electronic, print and social media and marketing, and effectiveness of self-regulation measures;
- Measures to assist parents in fulfilling their responsibility to protect and educate children;
- Measures to educate children and young people and assist them in navigating the contemporary cultural environment;
- Possible measures that the Children’s Advocate can take to assist children and young people to navigate the cultural environment successfully
 E Rush & A La Nauze, ‘Corporate paedophilia: sexualisation of children in Australia’, The Australia Institute, Discussion Paper No. 90, 2006.
 American Psychological Association (APA), ‘Report of the APA task force on the sexualisation of girls’, 2007, accessed via http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf
 L Papadopoulos, ‘Sexualisation of young people review’, Home Office, UK, 2010, Accessed via: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/sexualisation-of-young-people.pdf
 C Lumby & K Albury, ‘Too much? Too young? The sexualisation of children debate in Australia’, Media International Australia, No. 135, May 2010, pp. 141-152; A McKee, ‘Sexualisation of children: what the research shows’, submission to the National Classification Scheme Review, 2011, Accessed via: https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/pdfs/ci_721_a_mckee.pdf; C Smith & F Attwood, ‘Lamenting sexualisation: research, rhetoric, and the story of young people’s ‘sexualisation’ in the UK Home Office review’, Sex Education, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2011, pp. 327-337.
January 2016: Around a quarter of young people in NSW miss breakfast on a regular basis. Missing breakfast has significant negative impacts on educational and health outcomes for young people and, alarmingly, has been linked with obesity in adolescence.
Obesity in childhood and adolescence, and failure to achieve at school, have life-long consequences not only for young people but also for our communities.
Drivers for breakfast skipping are complex. While as many as 1 in 7 young people in NSW experience poverty and deprivation, breakfast skipping is not solely due to food insecurity or deprivation. Some young people are choosing to forgo breakfast.
Breakfast programs both internationally and in Australia have been found to combat the health and educational impacts of breakfast skipping. While some schools and communities in NSW currently have breakfast programs, these programs are likely not available to every young person who would benefit, nor young people who are most in need.
Below are the commitments we have achieved from the Baird Government on the 9 vital youth issues in our 2015 election agenda.
Prevention & Early Intervention Services:
Commit to increase the Child, Youth and Family Support program budget by $52 million.
74 Youth Action members lobbied their local candidates, and we received support from many politicians who have since been elected to the NSW Parliament.
The Government did not commit to increasing funding for the Child, Youth and Family Support program budget.
We will continue to campaign to highlight the amazing work that youth services and youth workers do, and push for a commitment from government for an increase in funding.
Commit to improving housing affordability for young people.
The Government has pledged to set up a $1 billion fund for social and affordable housing and $20 million for a Social Housing Community Improvement Fund. Further details on these plans are still needed, but this is a promising sign.
Because the government has not released details on this plan, Youth Action NSW will continue to campaign to hold them accountable, ensuring that the government makes a tangible impact on housing affordability.
Domestic & Family Violence:
Respond to the findings of the Youth Action & White Ribbon Foundation’s research on youth attitudes to violence.
WIN: The Government announced a significant plan to eliminate domestic and family violence and created a new Ministerial Portfolio devoted to this issue.
In June 2015, the Government announced the inclusion of Domestic & Family Violence into the mandatory NSW 7–10 Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus. Youth Action continues to advocate for the interests of young people in the process.
Fund training for rural youth workers to enable them to identify and work with young people on Mental Health issues, and to assist them to better understanding referral pathways.
WIN: As a direct result of our campaign, the Government pledged $250,000 for youth mental health first aid training in NSW. The training will develop the skills of youth workers, particularly those in rural and regional areas, to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in young people and respond effectively.
This training will be rolled out over the next 4 months in all areas of the state, so stay tuned to announcements on how you can access this free training!
Apprenticeships and Traineeships:
Funding for the expansion of the Sydney Alliance Working Start program – which links disadvantaged young people into local apprenticeships.
The Sydney Alliance Working Start program was not funded by the NSW Government. However, the Government has recognised the crisis in youth unemployment, and has committed to give scholarships to 200,000 disadvantaged youth to undertake industry apprenticeships and traineeships. The Government has also committed to providing $25 million for 25,000 scholarships for students to take on traineeships and apprenticeships in technology-based industries.
We will continue to work with government to ensure that support is provided to apprentices and trainees, not just before they get a job, but during the first 6 months of them starting work.
Fund a pilot of Justice Reinvestment in Bourke.
The Government has committed to funding a plan to develop a pilot Justice Reinvestment program in Bourke run by Just Reinvest NSW.
However, details as to the nature of this funding have not yet been forthcoming and so it is important to hold the Government to their election promise.
Commit to an independent review of School Suspension and Discipline Policy and Practice within the first 100 days of forming government.
No mention was made of the school suspension by the Government during the election campaign, but Youth Action is committed to pressing for an independent review of School Suspension and Discipline Policy and Practice.
Increase youth workers in schools through the Student Support Officer programs and through better linkages between schools and youth services.
WIN: Within its $150 million ‘Supported students, successful students’ funding package, the Coalition has devoted $51.5 million of flexible funding to respond to issues such as cyber safety or bullying. This funding is equivalent to an additional 200 Student Support Officers.
Alcohol and Other Drugs:
Develop comprehensive alcohol education programs for young people aged 15-17.
The Government has not addressed Youth Action’s recommendation that the Government develop a comprehensive alcohol education program for young people. Youth Action will continue to press the Government on this subject.
You can download the comprehensive election agenda below.
December 2012: Sexual health for young people is an area where health and social welfare services must work in tandem in order to provide the necessary supports to ensure good health.
Sexual health services in New South Wales are significantly below the standards of other Australian States. Victoria has comprehensive online information provided by their Government that informs young people on how to access these services. Western Australia has a school-based system that is highly regarded as being an effective way to communicate sexual health issues with young people. The NSW Ministry of Health website, however, provides no direction to Sexual Health Services within the State, nor links sites that are informative for young people in the same way other states do. Due to the high internet usage by young people, a poor site is a major barrier to increasing awareness around sexual health that needs to be addressed. Addressing this issue contributes to the development of a sexual health service that is user friendly to young people.
December 2012: Whilst overall smoking rates are approximately 15.1% across all age groups, smoking rates appear more prevalent for young people, with 27.9% of males and 24.5% of females aged 16-24 years represented in smoking statistics.
International evidence has also been revealed that the tobacco industry continues to target young people to take up smoking as a life-long habit. Indeed, approximately 90% of smokers pick up the habit in their teenage years.
Smoking rates are also related to markers of disadvantage, with representation from almost 28% of the unemployed, more than 37% of single parents, about half of all Indigenous people, and an estimated 70-80% of those with mental illness.
In the long term, effects of smoking include chronic illness and disease such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. However, for young smokers the more immediate effects include a loss of fitness, increased respiratory disease, coughing and wheezing and early decline in lung functioning.
The financial impacts of smoking are also of concern, considering the link between smoking rates and disadvantage and the diversion of funds from essentials such food, clothing and shelter towards supporting a person’s nicotine addiction.