Better services and more homes needed to support aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
Mission Australia is calling for more culturally and age appropriate services and social and affordable homes to better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to achieve their future aspirations and live happy, healthy lives after launching its report today which shows they face unique challenges compared to their non-Indigenous peers.
Mission Australia’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Report showed that when compared to non-Indigenous respondents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people reported higher levels of personal concern about drugs, bullying/emotional abuse, personal safety, discrimination, alcohol, gambling, suicide, family conflict and depression.
Around three in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents were either extremely or very concerned about depression, while around one quarter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people reported feeling either extremely or very concerned about family conflict, bullying/emotional abuse and personal safety.
While more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents indicated they were happy about their lives overall, nearly one in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (8.9%) reported feeling very sad about their life overall, compared to nearly one in fifty (1.8%) non-Indigenous young people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people were also more likely than their non-Indigenous peers to have spent time away from home in the past three years because they felt they could not go back, with more females than males reporting this experience.
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “These new Youth Survey findings showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have a range of ambitions; they’re keen to work and a high proportion see a future engaging in further education or employment.
“While the report showed positive responses about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their aspirations, it’s very concerning that these young people are facing some incredibly complex challenges. But without access to the support they need, these challenges are difficult to overcome.
“We want all young people to grow up in an equitable, supportive society and Australia has a moral, social and economic duty to ensure all young people have the chance to reach their full potential. But still, far too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are lacking the supports they need to achieve their aspirations and to live happy, healthy lives.
“This new report contributes to the evidence that too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are experiencing a concerning level of despair, which is fuelled by the severe shortage of culturally and age appropriate services in their communities.
Our nation needs to implement a far more inclusive and consultative way of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, so that they are involved in the identification of their needs, as well as the design and delivery of services that they need.
Professor Tom Calma AO, Chancellor, University of Canberra and Co-Chair, Reconciliation Australia, writing in a foreword to the report said that: “[it] allows us to hear from more than 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and gather rich insights into their hopes and concerns, their strengths and their challenges.
“This adds to the existing research on the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and demonstrates that while many aspirations are shared by all young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people face unique challenges on their journey into adulthood.
“There is much to celebrate in this report. Our young people speak about being engaged in education, their plans after school and their confidence in achieving their goals as well as how much they value their family and friendships. However, it is clear that much more needs to be done if we are serious about ‘Closing the Gap’ for the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The answer is not just providing more health and mental health services – although these are needed, especially in rural and remote areas – but ones which are culturally safe and co-designed with and delivered by communities. In a holistic response, we also need to address the deeper structural issues that can weaken wellbeing and build on the strengths of our young people, including their cultural connections.
“The levels of housing instability experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are also deeply concerning. As a matter of urgency, affordable housing is needed, particularly in remote areas, and more must be done to prevent homelessness among our young people, including by supporting families. All young people should have a safe, secure and stable home and be protected from bullying and discrimination at school and in their community.
“As a national priority, we must push forward and do everything we can to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people so they can realise their full potential. We will be a richer nation for it.”