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.
While Greater Western Sydney is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia, jobs and training opportunities for young people are not keeping up.
Western Sydney is disproportionately affected by disadvantages that make the region vulnerable to macro changes happening to the broader employment landscape, making it tough for young people looking for work in the region to find it.
The report shows:
- There is a high concentration of young people in industries vulnerable to automation and change (46% are employed by high risk areas such as hospitality and retail) and many holding casual or part-time jobs.
- Nationally, the number of full-time jobs available for 15-19 year olds has halved since 2008.
- Education completion rates and young employees who work in jobs requiring post-school qualifications are lower in Western Sydney than the Sydney average.
- 6.9% of young people in Western Sydney are not studying or looking for work compared to 3.9% for the rest of Sydney. Once young people 'disengage' from full-time study or work, they become less likely to re-enter employment in the future.
If we take action now we can reduce the number of young people who become disengaged, who are more likely to become long-term unemployed, have poorer health outcomes, and lower educational attainment, and give those who are searching for jobs more opportunities that will actually work for them.
Youth Action calls on the NSW Government to:
- Make a clear commitment that young people have a right to education that prepares them for the future.
- Pay closer attention to labour market regulation in sectors that young people are over-represented, and interventions are made when required.
- Make a commitment to educating young people on their pathways to education and training.
- Commit to targeted efforts to lift secondary completion rates, especially in areas under-represented in education and training completion rates, and over-represented in youth unemployment.
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.
Greater Western Sydney is home to 470,000 young people, many of whom have been negatively impacted by stereotypes and inaccurate depictions of the region. Our report challenges these stereotypes.
In April 2017, almost 900 young people aged 12-25 years in Greater Western Sydney responded to our survey question ‘What Makes You Smile About Where You Live?’ The results demonstrate the successes of Western Sydney and the elements that make it thrive.
What did we find out?
- Negative stereotypes about Western Sydney are outdated. Young people are excited and optimistic about life in Western Sydney.
- Young people positively identify as belonging to Western Sydney, an identity which is strongest when they are engaged and feel accepted.
- Young people view themselves as assets, essential to addressing the region's challenges, as well as contributing to the success of Western Sydney.
Four main elements that make Greater Western Sydney thrive:
- People: People in Western Sydney are welcoming and accepting
- Culture: Western Sydney celebrates cultural diversity
- Community: Western Sydney is a connected, supportive, and friendly community
- Place: Young people love the uniqueness of Western Sydney
What are we doing with this information?
We are amplifying the voice of young people by sending the report to every local, state, and federal politician in Greater Western Sydney.
Social housing remains inappropriate and inaccessible to many young people, and is a contributing to poor housing outcomes for young people in NSW.
Youth Action submitted our policy paper 'Social Housing for Young People in NSW' to the 2016 Review of rent models for social and affordable housing.
Many young people have adverse housing outcomes, are overrepresented in the homelessness system, yet continue to have poor access to stable and long term social and affordable housing.
Young people have different capacity to adults, and are very different to children. Young people are often part of families in social housing tenancies, but also seeking tenancy in their own right. Their needs require due consideration.
In a letter to the review Youth Action gave further evidence and:
- pointed to issues regarding the definition of ‘safety net’ and ‘opportunity groups’
- advocated that young people be considered as a distinct cohort that have specific characteristics and needs
- addressed assumptions underpinning employment 'incentives' and 'disincentives' in rent models
Contact Policy and Advocacy Manager, Jacqui McKenzie, if you would like further information regarding IPART submission or read our policy paper on social housing below.
Submission to NSW Homelessness Strategy
October 2016: NSW government is forming its next homelessness strategy. More young people experience homelessness in NSW than in any other state and young people are overrepresented in the NSW homeless population. Young people are particularly vulnerable to homelessness.
Youth Action provided a brief submission to the discussion paper ‘Foundations for Change’, focusing on the interconnectedness of many issues and homelessness, as well as the role of generalist youth services.
We recommend that a homelessness strategy for young people must focus on prevention and early intervention; accessible, timely and appropriate support; as well as an increase in options for alternative housing options. We comment on factors such as housing affordability, working with the ‘whole’ young person, and issues such as domestic and family violence.