Conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mission Australia’s 19th annual Youth Survey asked 25,800 young people aged 15 – 19 years to share their greatest concerns. The report provides valuable insights into their concerns for the future and supports our advocacy efforts on their behalf.

Here are the three most important issues facing young Australians today and Mission Australia’s recommendations in response:

1. Equity and discrimination was the top issue for young people

For the first time, equity and discrimination was the most pressing concern for young people around Australia, rising from the third highest concern in 2019 to the top concern in 2020.

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“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,” says Mission Australia CEO James Toomey.

Alarmingly, over half of all survey respondents said they had witnessed someone being treated unfairly in the past year. More than one quarter of young people reported experiencing unfair treatment, most commonly because of their gender, race or cultural background or mental health.

Of those who witnessed unfair treatment, 62% said the incident was related to an individual’s race or cultural background.

These personal experiences, along with increasing media coverage and movements such as Black Lives Matter all shape the issues that young people care most about.

What we recommend: A new National Anti-Racism Strategy which includes a commitment to partnering with young people to harness their voices and create initiatives to eradicate racism and discrimination.

2. Young people were concerned about the impact of COVID-19

The pandemic affected every part of our community and livelihoods, and young people were not exempt from the anxiety and stress that COVID-19 brought with it. The results of our Youth Survey 2020 reveal that COVID-19 was the second most concerning issue for young people.

Almost 40% of young people said they were concerned about COVID-19, mostly because of its impact on education, isolation, mental health and finances.

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This year many office-based employees were required to work from home due to COVID-19. When young people were asked about key factors to securing a job, 75% said flexible working hours was the most important consideration.

What we recommend: Develop a national approach to supporting youth employment in light of COVID-19, by expanding quality career guidance and support services.

3. Mental health was a pressing concern for young people

A significant proportion of young people said mental health was an important national issue.

During a challenging year, the mental health of young people took a toll with four in ten young people stating they felt stressed either all the time or most of the time. Young people’s top three personal concerns also link closely to mental health.

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COVID-19 has caused multiple stresses for young people, including uncertainty about their future, social isolation, increasing rates of unemployment and financial distress.

Young people who were previously experiencing mental health challenges are also likely to face an exacerbation of their mental health conditions.

What we recommend: Focus on mental health prevention and early intervention measures, including online and outreach.

Download your copy of Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 for more information on youth in Australia.

Read the report

Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2020

Mission Australia Youth Survey 2020 Infographic

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander summary (Youth Survey Report 2020)

Comparing major cities and regional areas (Youth Survey Report 2020)

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