Environment the number one concern of young Australians

Posted on 29 Nov 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Youth voice speak out

The environment, discrimination, the cost-of-living crisis, and mental health are the key concerns keeping young Australians awake at night.

Mission Australia’s Youth Survey Report 2023 also revealed more young people aged 15-19 years old are worried about housing and homelessness than in the previous survey in 2022.

Now in its 22nd year, the study evaluated responses from more than 19,500 young people in a bid to gain insights into their thoughts, experiences and concerns.

It also canvassed some suggested solutions to what the youth of Australia see as the biggest issues they face.

Key findings from the report include:

  • More than 44% of young Australians rated the environment as their most pressing concern
  • Almost a third were worried about equity and discrimination
  • About 31% cited the economy and financial matters as an issue of major importance
  • Mental health (30%) rounded out the top four issues occupying the minds of the nation’s youth
Mission Australia report graphic
"The Youth Survey 2023 paints a picture of a diverse, resilient and capable group of young people who often experience significant pressures in multiple facets of life, but who can usually identify solutions or ways of coping."
Mission Australia, Youth Survey 2023

Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister said the research showed young people were engaged with major environmental, political, and societal issues facing the country.

“Responses were given amidst Australia’s severe weather disasters as well as public discussion and advocacy on climate change, mental health, the Voice referendum and racism, the rising cost of living and the housing and homelessness crisis,” she said.

Ms Callister said it was significant that the level of concern over housing affordability and homelessness had increased from 12% in 2022 to 19% in the latest survey.

“Homelessness is a traumatic experience which can have ongoing impacts on a person’s life, their wellbeing and their future,” she said.

Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister.

Ms Callister said for these reasons, Mission Australia strongly urged governments of all persuasions to take immediate action to put a roof over disadvantaged people’s heads.

“This includes committing to homelessness prevention measures and investment in youth-specific services like Youth Foyers.”

Ms Callister said in addition to displaying societal awareness, young people demonstrated great insight into the challenges they have personally faced this year and shared possible solutions to those challenges.

School issues accounted for almost half of all responses, followed by mental health (24%) and relationships (21%).

The survey results were not uniform across the country with some national issues of more concern in some states than others.

Housing and homelessness were top of mind for young Tasmanians, pointing to the effects of the housing crisis in that state, while crime, safety and violence was the second most important issue in the Northern Territory.

More than a third of young people in New South Wales mentioned mental health as an important national issue.

Close to a quarter of all survey respondents cited stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem among the the greatest personal challenges they faced.

Mental health problems were seen as the number one barrier to achieving work and study goals.

Mission Australia report personal challenges

The report also found there were many results worth celebrating.

They included high levels of involvement in study, with the majority of students satisfied with their progress, and high levels of employment and job satisfaction, with two thirds of respondents pleased with their job.

Almost nine out of ten were involved in activities or groups, and most young people indicated they were proud of their community.

As in past years, young people showed awareness and thoughtfulness about issues facing the nation.

“Through our youth survey, young people have shown they care about issues facing Australia and themselves, are strong and resilient, diverse and very capable,” said Ms Callister.

“They want better access to mental healthcare services, accurate diagnosis and treatment, support from their family and friends and professional help.

“Young people also voiced they’d like greater understanding from teachers and parents about stress levels.”

Screenshot 2023 11 27 142117

The report found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples continued to rate their wellbeing lower than their non-Indigenous peers.

A greater proportion also reported they were subject to unfair treatment or discrimination.

“This disparity and its persistence remind us yet again of the urgent action that’s needed to make our country a place where all young people can thrive,” said Ms Callister.

The report revealed many young people were concerned about the future, but also had more immediate challenges in their lives.

Only half of young people felt positively about the future and most expressed unhappiness about what may happen to them later in life.

When asked whether they felt they had control over their life, one in 10 felt they had no control or almost.

Overall, however, the survey revealed the youth of Australia to be diverse, resilient and capable - often experiencing significant pressures in multiple facets of life, but usually able to identify solutions or ways of coping.

Mission Australia said the results of the survey would be shared with schools, government and key policy makers in the hope that the concerns, voices and recommendations of young Australians could be included in future decision-making.

“Young people took the opportunity of this platform to openly share their perspectives and the findings remind us of the importance of listening to this next generation of Australian adults.”

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