Young Australians are our future and we are all responsible for giving them a voice and listening to their views.

To celebrate National Youth Week (8-17 April), we are opening our annual Mission Australia Youth Survey.

Now in its 15th year, we are proud our Youth Survey is the largest annual nationwide survey of its kind. We encourage 15 to 19 year olds to express their concerns and hopes for the future. We then share this valuable research so that young people’s voices are heard by key decision makers including politicians, policy makers, teachers, advocates and community organisations.

Last year our Youth Survey revealed the most important issues to young people in Australia were alcohol and drugs, equity and discrimination and the economy and financial matters. This year, we have included new focus questions to better understand young people’s experiences of discrimination, as well as questions focused on young peoples’ sense of community.

Youth Week is a great opportunity for young people’s views to be heard, to showcase their talents and celebrate their contribution to the community.

In the middle of National Youth Week is Youth Homelessness Matters Day on April 13. This provides an opportunity to talk about the more than 44,000 homeless children and young Australians, the pathways that lead to homelessness and how we can all help. Mission Australia wants to see youth homelessness halved by 2020 and we believe this achievable with a firm commitment from Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments as well as business and community organisations.

Youth homelessness is close to all of us. It can affect anyone; your own children or young relatives, or your children’s or grandchildren’s friends and classmates. Our 2015 Youth Survey revealed nearly one in seven young Australians spent time away from home in the last three years because they felt they couldn't return.

This is a startling finding that points to high rates of couch surfing. Young people often live temporarily in other households - perhaps sleeping on friends’ sofas or in the spare room or garage of a relative - because they believe they can’t return home.

Many of our services work with the young people identified in the Youth Survey who repeatedly couch surf, have poor family relationships, experience family conflict, lack confidence in the future, are unsure of their ability to cope with stress and are concerned about depression and suicide.

We also know that particular groups of young people including those young people leaving out of home care and juvenile justice are at higher risk of homelessness and likely to need more intensive supports. In the Cost of Youth Homelessness study, 63 per cent of homeless young people surveyed had been placed in some form of out of home care before the age of 18.

What might start as intermittent couch surfing can turn into more entrenched homelessness without appropriate early intervention. To prevent a crisis escalating, services such as Reconnect which work with the whole family and the Ryde Project which works through schools to identify young people at risk of homelessness are crucial. More broadly, we need affordable housing options for young people with wrap around supports connecting them to education and work. I will continue to advocate for such programs in the lead up to the election and in my meetings with government and the sector.

Each year, the Youth Survey provides a valuable snapshot of young Australians and offers many important insights that inform our work, that of other community groups and the decision making of government. I am sure this year will do the same.

Mission Australia’s 2016 Youth Survey is open to all Australian young people aged 15-19 years old. With nearly 19,000 participants last year we have a goal to surpass 20,000 respondents this year.

Please help us reach this goal and share our survey with your family and friends here www.missionaustralia.com.au/youthsurvey The youth survey will remain open from 8 April to 31st July 2016.

Catherine Yeomans

 

Catherine Yeomans
CEO Mission Australia
@cathyeomans

 

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