In its annual youth survey, Mission Australia canvassed the views of 25,800 15-19 year olds, providing insights into their world and uncovering the three most important issues facing young Australians today.
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey expressed that while the survey “showed that many young people are happy with their lives and optimistic about their future”, this year “we’re hearing loud and clear that our young people see discrimination as a major issue in Australia, and are very concerned about unfair treatment.”
So amidst a global pandemic, what were the three most important issues facing young Australians today and what can we do in response?
Equity and Discrimination
In 2020, equity and discrimination rose to become the most important national issue according to young people, increasing by more than 60% between 2019 and 2020.
27% said that they had experienced unfair treatment in the past year, with more than double the number of females than males citing gender was the cause. Alarmingly, a majority of survey respondents said they had witnessed someone being treated unfairly in the past year due to a wide range of reasons such as gender, race, disability or cultural background.
Having such a vast issue ranked so highly shows our young people place value in fairness and equality and that we all have a part to play in ensuring we create welcoming environments that are sensitive to the needs of everyone and allow everyone to thrive.
The Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every Australian; our day-to-day life, relationships and sense of community as well as how we plan for the future. A year of uncertainty and constant change left our youths extremely concerned, with COVID-19 disproportionately affecting our young people’s mental health, education and finances.
Having witnessed many small businesses collapse and workforces required to work from home, many young people are currently reassessing their future study and career goals with only 48% of respondents indicating high levels of confidence in their ability to achieve their future study/work goals.
There is a critical need for schools to prioritise opportunities for connection throughout 2021 and beyond and help connect young people to their further education or employment pathways.
Encouragingly, nearly 60% of young Australians said they were very happy or happy with their lives as a whole. That said, mental health continues to be a significant issue for young people with areas of concern in 2020 surrounding how to cope with stress and body image.
The constant changes in routine for young people saw 40% state that they felt stressed all the time or most of the time with females were more than twice as likely as males to say they are either extremely or very concerned about coping with stress.
It is important that teenagers are equipped with the knowledge and tools that will help them develop their wellbeing self-awareness, be able to identify their wellbeing contributors and take ownership of their own wellbeing. It is equally important that they have a support network to turn to when they need it. Friends, parents or guardians and relatives/family friends were the three most frequently cited sources of help for young people with 30% turning to their school for support as well.
At Toorak College we are on a mission to develop aspiring young people who have confidence and character, Project Shine ensures every student has the chance to get the most out of their journey and gives them the skills, knowledge, confidence and opportunity to be bold, ambitious and chase their dreams.