Youth Action welcomes the invitation to provide a submission to the inquiry into the child protection and social services system (the System). We have welcomed the changes made as a result of various government’s increased focus on evidence based and trauma informed approaches to marginalised young people at risk of, or in contact with the System. However, too many young people still find themselves at a disadvantage.
There are continued calls for greater participation of young people in policy development and service provision. This is despite many reports, inquiries and commissions into the failings of the System recommending significant, system level changes. Youth Action is advocating for a NSW where every young person is valued, engaged and supported. The cornerstone of this objective is improving the decision-making processes in NSW through utilising the diverse range of expertise of both young people and the youth sector as experts in their own lives.
Youth Action welcomes the opportunity to make this submission to the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control for their inquiry into coercive control in domestic relationships. Youth Action refers the Committee to the submissions of Women’s Safety NSW and Domestic Violence NSW, whom we support, regarding the introduction of a Coercive Control offence here in NSW. In making recommendations for change on behalf of young people, Youth Action’s submission focuses upon young people’s experience of Coercive Control and the non-legislative responses which should occur prior to, oralongside, the creation of a Coercive Control offence.
The research is clear, prevention and early intervention is better for young people, better for communities and better for the government's hip pocket.
Yet even after decades of government reports, reviews and reforms calling for greater investment, there has been little movement and funding continues to be crisis oriented rather than focusing on preventing the issue in the first case and intervening much earlier when an issue starts to arise.
The failure to grow investment in true prevention or early intervention only serves to increase children, young people and families who require intensive support, while at the same time undermines effective work already happening on the ground.
Youth Action in partnership with Fams and LSCA have done the groundwork to prepare the 2019 early intervention review paper 'The case for an effective prevention and early intervention approach' which fills the definitional gap and proposes a model for investment.
To read the 2019 review download the PDF.
Employment is essential to a young person’s wellbeing and future success. Having a job gives a young person the opportunity to attain financial security, independence, skill development and a sense of belonging. However, youth unemployment is very high across NSW and this has long-term detriments for those young people, the economy and the wider community. Youth Action made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into jobactive, to represent the voices of young jobseekers. We recommended that the government do more to tackle youth unemployment, especially for marginalised young people.
Understanding how issues affect young people starts with listening to them and hearing their perspectives. Many organisations and stakeholders try to work in the interests of young people without asking their views on the issues that affect them most.
That's why we surveyed 3,400 young people to seek their views on the issues that they care about and which have the greatest impact on their lives.
We overwhelmingly found that young people place a huge value on fairness, equity and equality within Australia. Their attitudes and goals on important issues such as education, employment and housing are most often altruistic and aimed at creating a better society for everyone.
On critical issues young people are seeing widening inequality gaps within society as a whole, between generations and even within their own peer group. They are also overwhelmingly disappointed by government's response to their issues, citing politicians' lack of vision and inability to listen to young people. They feel that governments are not acting in their best interests or the interests of future generations.
Our report, Inequality in Australia: A Young Person's Perspective, provides direct quotes from young people on issues that are having an impact on them.
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.
Vocational Education and Training (VET) plays a vital role for young people in the transition from school to both further education and employment. Difficulties with this transition can result in unemployment, underemployment and social exclusion that may affect young people for the rest of their lives and have long-term undesirable social and economic implications.
Youth Action partnered with Uniting and Mission Australia to better understand the challenges faced by young people who want to complete a VET qualification by conducting community consultations and a sector stakeholder survey.
The VET sector is vital to create a workforce that meets the growing and unmet demand in different employment sectors. The NSW Government and the community will benefit from efforts to ensure young people are provided with opportunities to successfully pursue careers in their chosen employment pathways through a whole-of-sector approach.
Work is critical to wellbeing and good life outcomes. But getting a job is harder than ever before, and the employment landscape is increasingly challenging. The missing link is careers guidance.
The transition from education to further study or employment is a crucial point in time for young people. While this transition period gives young people the opportunity to consolidate skills, develop a sense of job-readiness and make decisions about their lives and career paths, it has become increasingly difficult for young people to gain employment after leaving education and training. Factors such as the reduction of entry-level job opportunities, job automation, the casualisation of the workforce as well as disengagement from education have caused the length of the transition period for young people to increase.
Effective career guidance in high schools can improve the transition from education to employment for young people, especially for those experiencing disadvantage. Benefits include increased engagement with education, improved employment prospects and an increase in social capital and wellbeing. Studies show that if young people can recall four structured career activities across their school life, they are five times less likely to be unemployed or disengaged from education or training. Despite this, approximately 50% of schools in Australia (with populations of over a 1000 students) dedicate less than $3 per student for career guidance.
To find out more and read our recommendations, download the report now.
Current School Suspension policy is not clear, resulting in unfair and inconsistent implementation across NSW.
Education is a crucial ingredient for children and young people. A positive experience with education promotes an optimal setting for teaching and learning.
Unfortunately, too many children and young people will not be able to have a positive experience with education in part because of the school suspension policy. The current policy is not clear, resulting in unfair and inconsistent implementation across NSW.
Students are being suspended for truancy or for wearing the wrong clothing.
(graphic source: UnitingCare Children, Young People & Families)
Recommendations (excerpt from the policy paper)
- That the NSW government conduct a public review of the School Suspension and Expulsion Policy.
- That the NSW government increase funding for school counsellors to:
- a. lower the ratio of counsellor to student to 1:500
- b. establish permanency for one school counsellor working full time in a high school.
- That every young person is part of the decision making process around their behaviour management.
- That the NSW government increase and enforce collaboration between parents and school prior to suspension and/or expulsion, including the development of other behaviour management options.
- That the NSW government increase and enforce collaboration between parents and school post suspension, including the development of reintegration plans.
- That the NSW government develop and enhance policies and practices that focus on positive behaviour in the classroom and school environment.
- That schools must ensure every student has up to date and adequate school work, as well as a safe and supervised space while on suspension.
- That the NSW government continues to provide funding and support for the ongoing professional development of teachers.
- That NSW schools develop community partnerships to
- a. increase support strategies, programs and services for students
- b. increase the use of alternative programs prior to suspension
- c. address specific cultural needs of students i.e. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
- d. include community members from specific groups i.e. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, when considering disciplinary and behaviour management actions
- e. increase the use of alternative programs whilst a student is on suspension.
- That the NSW School Suspension policy is developed to include a framework and capacity to incorporate students social, cultural, economic, geographic factors and learning difficulties when considering suspension and/or expulsion.
- Youth Action fact sheet: School suspensions
- Infographic by UnitingCare Burnside: all the facts, such as how many children get suspended per year in NSW
- UnitingCare Burnside paper (PDF): another good source that addresses the high school rates of school suspension
- A research brief by UnitingCare Burnside: highlights how community organisations should address issues of school engagement by working with the school community to deliver specific approaches which would support the learning and well- being of individual students.
- Research has found that students who live in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods are more at risk of being suspended than other students.
- International research (PDF) has found that school environment affects more than academic performance - it influences students’ emotions and health behaviours as well.
- Bock, S. B., Tapscott, K. E., and Savner, J. L. 1998. 'Suspension and expulsion: effective management for students?' in Intervention in school and clinic. 34:1.
- Beresford, Q. and Partington, G. 2003. Reform and resistance in Aboriginal Education. University of Western Australia Press, Western Australia, Australia.
- Deed, C. G. 2008. 'Bending the school rules to re-engage students: implications for improving teaching practice' in Improving Schools. 11:205.