Legislative Council

MATTERS OF INTEREST: Youth Survey 2016

December 7th, 2016

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I rise today to talk about the very real concerns that young people in South Australia hold for their future. Yesterday morning, Mission Australia released the results of their youth survey. Those results are difficult to capture or summarise in a single sentence, but perhaps David Washington summed it up best in his article in InDaily when he suggested that perhaps young South Australians are facing 'a crisis of hope'.

This survey was a national survey and, while the national results have highlighted a lot of areas for discussion, the South Australian results are of particular interest. The survey received 21,846 responses from young people aged 15 to 19, and 2,358 young South Australians participated in the survey. Overall, the results of this survey highlight the key concerns of young Australians and some of the findings are deeply saddening.

Our young people reported a high level of experience with discrimination. In South Australia, nearly half of young women reported having experienced unfair treatment or discrimination based on their gender in the past 12 months. Furthermore, more than 26 per cent of respondents had experienced discrimination due to their race or cultural background. Overall, one in four young people had experienced unfair treatment or discrimination in the past year, and one in two young people had witnessed someone being treated unfairly due to their race, sexuality or physical ability. It is not surprising then that nearly 30 per cent identified equity and discrimination as the most important issues facing our country.

When asked about how discrimination could be combatted, those surveyed suggested that political leaders could be better advocates for equality. In the Greens, we are proud to have equality as a core value of our party. The passing of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill and the Relationships Register (No 1) Bill yesterday was an encouraging step forwards in the march towards equality. However, there is still a lot of work to do. We are passing more bills today, but as South Australia still has the gay panic defence, we must not rest on our laurels.

What I think we really need to recognise as a result of this survey is that young South Australians were the least positive about the future out of all the young people in the country. Just over 11 per cent of young South Australians were either negative or very negative about their future, which is higher than the national average, and a further 27.7 per cent were neutral.

Young people also differed from the rest of the country in their choice of the top three issues of concern. In South Australia, young people identified the same issues as their counterparts interstate, namely equality and discrimination as number one, and mental health as number two. However, at number three, population issues were the next issue of concern for young South Australians. This is probably reflecting a concern about the number of young people leaving our state. As the local economy struggles, more young people leave and they take with them their knowledge, expertise and new ideas.

The Mission Australia survey showed that in South Australia 17.7 per cent of young people were most concerned about jobs as compared with 9.9 per cent nationally. Young people are feeling stressed about their capacity and opportunities to meet their aspirations. It is not really surprising that young people are feeling this way when our general and youth unemployment rates are so high in South Australia, when our government is slow to act on solutions and our parliament struggles with legislation that would improve equality and mental health.

We also need to invest in the industries of the future such as renewable energy, which we know is a jobs-rich industry, far more than fracking for gas. I think it is important that this parliament hears and acknowledges the very real concerns of our young people but, beyond that, we need to act on those concerns. Often we hear older South Australians disparaging young people, saying they are apathetic, uninformed and uninvolved in politics. Of course, we know this is just not true. I want young people in our state to know that they are heard and that we recognise their struggles and concerns. We know that they are passionate and intelligent citizens with much to contribute to our state, both now and in the future.

As parliamentarians, we represent all our constituents, both young and older. We need to work harder to secure the futures and hopes of all South Australians, but particularly young South Australians. As Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, once said:

Normally, when we need to know about something, we go to the experts, but we tend to forget that when we want to know about youths and what they feel and what they want,  that  we should talk to them. 

It is quite clear to me that the youth of Australia have told us plainly what they are feeling and what their concerns are, and as parliamentarians it is our job to listen. It is also vital that we as a parliament continue to create opportunities for young people to find meaningful employment and to invest in the industries of the future so that the talent, skills and knowledge of our young people can remain in this state.

We need to fight for better and more mental health services and to actually fund those services properly, but what is equally important is that we enable young people to see themselves as part of the decision-making process in this state and that they know that we hear the feedback they are giving us and that we are taking it seriously.

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