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.
In partnership with the Intergener8 Living Lab at Western Sydney University in late 2019, Youth Action conducted the largest survey of the NSW Youth Sector in a decade. In just around 4 weeks we received responses from 488 respondents. CEOs, executive and regional service managers, team leaders, coordinators, administrators, youth workers and other frontline workers shared their experiences, highlights and challenges working in the youth sector.
It has been almost 10 years since Youth Action collected this level of data from youth services about demand, activities, and priorities, and from people who work with young people in NSW about their experiences, attitudes, and backgrounds. Findings provide crucial information to inform sector reform and policy making, as well as to identify ways to build on the strengths of the youth services sector. We want to thank everyone who completed the survey, which was created for the sector and made possible only by the sector's support.
Snapshot 2020: The State the of NSW Youth Sector launched April 17
Youth Action officially launched the report on April 17, 2020 during a webinar event via Zoom. The findings from Snapshot 2020 highlight a vibrant, diverse and active NSW youth sector. They show it’s a sector driven by expertise, with a strengths based focus and a commitment to support and make positive changes in the lives of young people aged 12 to 25. Data shows that this is a workforce motivated to put young people first.
The largest survey of the NSW youth sector in a decade
Download the report here ▼
Stories of the Sector - What is Youth Work?
Last year during the biennial NSW Youth Work Conference we started a storytelling project interviewing youth workers to create a conversation with the sector talking about the challenges, highlights and misconceptions of youth work. Knowing the survey was to be released later in 2019, we intentionally added questions from the survey to our interviews to add to the data and link the findings to visual tangible evidence of lived experience. This is a short preview of many stories of the sector, for the sector. In this video, three case studies from the report, Darrel, Kane and Monique share their experiences to help us understand better what youth work is. Keep an eye on this space.
Publication and Findings
The youth sector workforce is dedicated, skilled and effective at responding to and engaging with young people in crisis on a regular basis. There is scope to significantly leverage digital technologies to enhance youth services and their benefits for young people and their communities. There is also a growing diversity of young people that seek out youth services and a diverse workforce that is well placed to support them.
The youth sector is the greatest untapped resource for the government and the community to understand how best to meet the needs of young people and better address the complex social problems that affect them.
The youth sector puts young people’s needs, views, and experience at the heart of what it does and we call on the government and wider community to do the same.
We have developed a pack for your use, which includes the Key Findings from the report as a printable A3 PDF that you can use as a poster or document for meetings, as well as various tiles of the key findings to use for you social channels and communications to help with your advocacy.
Download the pack here ▼
Youth Action would like to thank everyone who participated in the survey.
Also a big thank you to our advisory group who helped guide the study; Siobhan Bryson – Weave Youth and Community Services, Natalie Chiappazzo – BYSA, Maddy Forwood – MYST, Katie Kapp – Wollongong Youth Services, Nada Nasser – Mission Australia and Darrel Smith – Miyay Birray Youth Services.
Our study included case studies of services under the topic areas of Youth Participation, Meeting Community Demand, importance of Diversity within the Workforce, and adapting to digital technology. Thank you to all involved; Darrel Smith, Natalie Chiappazzo, Blake Tatafu, Alex Long, Monique Ready, Kane Alkoraghooli and all involved in the storytelling project who shared their stories with us.
Joint Submission to Review of Age of Criminal Responsibility
The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) together with Youth Action and the other state and territory youth sector peak bodies across Australia created a joint submission calling on the Council of Attorneys-General (COAG) and the Australian Government to raise the age of legal criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14.
Children as young as 10 years old in Australia are being arrested, prosecuted and detained in prisons. They are being torn away from their families, communities and culture. They are being incarcerated in facilities that increase the likelihood of reoffending when compared to suitable alternatives, such as youth work programs and community supports. In Australia, there are around 600 children below the age of 14 who are locked up in prison each year.
Children and young people deserve supports that enable them to succeed. This is particularly important for children between the ages of 10–14. The earlier children have contact with the criminal justice system, the more likely they are to have long term involvement in crime. Raising the age of criminal responsibility will reduce long term offending and increase community safety.
The Australian community, including state and territory governments, is collectively responsible for supporting children and young people to reach their potential and become positive and productive citizens. Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 is an appropriate first step toward reducing overrepresentation of particular cohorts of young people, and better supporting children and young people in Australia.
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.
A society where young people are empowered to make political decisions, and where political parties are dedicated to making the best policies for young people will ensure a positive future for Australia as a whole. That's why we submitted to the Committee on Electoral Matters Inquiry into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill.
We have recommended that the Parliament allow those aged 16 and 17 to vote on a voluntary basis, and that this be supported with improved education in civics at school. This would allow young people passionate about issues to engage in the political process and ensure that politicians pay attention to their voices and their needs.
Young people are passionate about issues, and voter turnout overseas demonstrates that when given the opportunity, young people aged 16 and 17 are much more likely to use their right to vote than those aged 18–24.
Youth Action joined with the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition and six other state youth peaks to support the 2018 Bill to lower the minimum, non-compulsory voting age to 16.
Providing the opportunity for young people aged 16 and 17 the option to vote recognises them as citizens and contributors to society. It also gives them a recognised platform to participate and express their views about government policies in Australia. The option to vote at 16 will also encourage conversation about politics at an earlier age and foster a strong sense of civic engagement earlier in life.
The change would also bring voting rights in line with other significant rights gained by young people aged 16. Young people aged 16 can leave school, live independently, become parents, make independent medical decisions and obtain a driver’s license. At 17, young people can join the military. A large number of young people aged 16 and 17 contribute to our economy by engaging in employment and taking on legal responsibilities and tax obligations.
In June 2018, Youth Action responded to the NSW Government's Review of s61HA of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Legislative changes are essential when their impact can create a safer and more inclusive community, and give young people the best chance to develop and succeed.
We recommended that the law should provide a clearer definition of communicative consent. The current provision in the law places an emphasis on consent being the absence of 'no' rather than the presence of a 'yes.' We also recommended that a taskforce should be established to conduct a comprehensive review of the criminal justice response to complaints of sexual offences, and that the laws should be amended to provide a clearer endorsement of the communicative model of consent.