During the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 20,200 young people aged 15 – 19 years have shared their greatest concerns in Mission Australia’s 20th annual Youth Survey. The Youth Survey Report 2021 provides rich and compelling insights about young people’s challenges, concerns, experiences and barriers to achieving their goals.

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

1. COVID-19 was the top issue for young people

This year, young people in Australia said COVID-19 was the most pressing concern, rising from second place in 2020.

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 findings revealed 45.7% of young people felt COVID-19 was the most important issue in 2021.

Young people reported that the pandemic and associated public health responses, such as lockdowns and home-learning had a negative effect on their health, wellbeing and education.

Alarmingly, a smaller proportion of respondents were studying full-time in 2021 than in 2020 with many stating their mental health, academic ability and COVID-19 were the main barriers standing between them and their work and study goals.

 Image of a young woman holding a coffee cup. Text on top of image reads, “Most important issues in Australia today according to young people: Covid-19 (45.7%), the environment (38%) and equity and discrimination (35.4%)”

“Without the right supports and policy settings in place, there is a real concern the pandemic will have long-term impacts on our young people,” James Toomey, Mission Australia CEO said.

2. More young people are concerned about the environment 

Close to four in ten young people said the environment is a key national issue, and one quarter are ‘extremely concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about climate change.

 Image of a young lady hiking. Text on top of image reads, “One in four young people surveyed said they were personally extremely or very concerned about climate change.”

Younger Australians feel they will be the most affected by climate decisions made by world leaders. Their sentiments are shared by youth activists around the world such as Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish climate activist whose passion sparked the Climate Strike movement.

Echoing existing research, James Toomey says these results combined with survey respondent comments show the psychological toll climate change is taking on young people across Australia

“No doubt concerns about the lack of action on climate change in Australia during the past several years has affected the mental health of young people. We should all be concerned about the impacts of this on young people, who are tomorrow’s workers, parents and carers,” James Toomey said.

3. Equity and discrimination continues to be a pressing concern for young people

A significant proportion of young people continue to identify equity and discrimination as an important national issue.

Sadly, more than one in three surveyed said they had experienced unfair treatment in the past year – higher than the 27% of young people who had experienced unfair treatment in 2021.

Image of a concerned young man sitting down. Text on top of image reads, “One in three young people reported being unfairly treated.”

This treatment was most commonly due to their gender (37.3%) – with far more gender diverse young people, and more young females citing this.

Other reasons for unfair treatment were mental health or race/cultural background, which was endured by more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people than their non-Indigenous peers.

“Gender and racial discrimination very much exist in our country in the eyes and through the experiences of young people, and our Youth Survey tells us that young people in Australia want it brought out of the shadows and into the light,” James Toomey said.

Download your copy of Mission Australia’s Youth Survey Report 2021 for more information on youth in Australia.

Read the report

Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2021

Mission Australia Youth Survey 2021 overview

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