Young people in the ACT have identified equity and discrimination, COVID-19, and the environment as their top concerns in a survey this year.
Mission Australia’s Youth Survey Report 2020 attracted 25,800 respondents nationally, with 1,230 ACT-based participants.
Mission Australia’s ACT regional leader, Daniel Strickland, said one of the most interesting things to come out of the Territory’s results was the increased concern about equity and discrimination.
“I think one of the surprising things was equity and discrimination moving from the third most concerning to the first,” he said.
“During the time they were surveyed, there was a worldwide movement around racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, so it’s interesting to see the correlation in the community and worldwide that puts those issues at front of mind for young people.”
In the ACT, 42.2% of respondents reported being concerned about equity and discrimination compared to 20.6% in 2019.
A new category of concern, COVID-19, came in second with ACT participants, with almost four in 10 (37.7%) indicating it was Australia’s most important issue currently.
Mr Strickland said 2020 had been exceptionally difficult for the younger demographic, with survey results also finding three in 10 of the ACT’s young people felt stressed all or most of the time.
“What a year it has been for young people, who have adapted to a great deal of change. Many are coping with new stresses in addition to existing challenges,” he said.
“Even with increased government investment this year, there are significant gaps in the mental health support system that have been accentuated by COVID-19.”
The Youth Survey Report results are shared with governments, non-government organisations, schools and social commentators, which Mr Strickland said helps with advocacy work and policy change for young people.
“It helps us with our research and advocacy and having the opportunity to have these conversations with the government,” he said.
“We hope the work we have done, which is being sent out to policy makers and government, plays a big part is having a voice of the young people.”
Mission has put forward its own recommendations as part of the report, including the development of a National anti-racism strategy and early intervention services for youth homelessness.
“Additional funding and strategies are needed to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people from the ACT,” Mr Strickland said.
“This should include more age-appropriate prevention and early intervention mental health services that are designed in conjunction with young people, who have important input on the issues that affect them and the best solutions.”
Reassuringly, the Youth Survey Report 2020 also showed that the majority (60.9%) of young people from the ACT felt very happy/happy with their lives and more than half (57.2%) are very positive/positive about the future.