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.
In partnership with fourteen other community sector peaks, Youth Action urges the state government to overhaul the way NSW provides supports to young people who are vulnerable and at risk.
The peaks are responding to the release of the Tune Review, the Ombudsman's special report, More than Shelter, and Fams' Investing in Children and Their Families.
Collectively, these reports highlight a number of significant issues when it comes to supporting vulnerable and at-risk young people.
We have called on the Premier to meet with the peaks this year to discuss how we can redesign the service system to deliver better outcomes for young people.
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.
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.