The past three years have been tough for young people in NSW, with the pandemic, fires and floods and the ongoing intergenerational inequity. The combination of these events has seen young people fall further behind. These events have caused increased poverty and housing insecurity, homelessness, disengagement from education and an increase in mental health issues, and further compounding these issues has been the significant cost-of-living increases.
Unsurprisingly, given the intergenerational inequity these impacts are hitting young people both in Sydney and the regions very hard. With the increase in disengagement from schools and services it is vital that the programs that support young people can increase and expand to meet increasing demand.
Our recommendations draw on what we have heard over the past year from over 2,000 young people in 62 consultations and nearly 1700 youth sector representatives over 40 occasions. Further, we recently polled 1000 young people 16 – 24yrs in NSW about the key issues impacting their lives and to understand their level of engagement with democratic processes.
Strengthening social capital and increasing engagement is key to the successful strengthening of the economy and society especially if we are to establish the conditions for young people to thrive and reach their full potential. Our state will need targeted investment to increase engagement and participation of young people, through supports and services in areas such as mental health, education, employment, housing and homelessness, throughcare for those in conflict with the law, and child protection systems, and the expansion of youth specific services. Young people need to be actively involved in the design, implementation, and monitoring of these programs and services to ensure their effectiveness.
Over the course of the last two years Youth Acton has conducted many consultations with young people, in the following areas: effects of COVID, impact of sexual violence, employment, renting, learner drivers, young people in conflict with the law, and election priorities. Consistently the top issues raised were education and learning, employment, mental health, and youth participation and rights.
In our recent poll held in January 2023, the issues that young people were most concerned about included the following: cost of living, employment and climate change. Cost of living was their number one concern and the three greatest pressures for young people were the costs of food and groceries, rent and utilities.