Discrimination, alcohol and drugs are the top concerns for young Tasmanians.
Major new research by Mission Australia reveals rising numbers of Tasmania’s young people are reporting concerns about discrimination and alcohol and drugs pointing to the need for a more targeted and co-ordinated approach to ensure youth support services are accessible in Tasmania and across the nation.
Mission Australia’s annual Youth Survey 2016, saw over a quarter of Tasmania’s 1,950 respondents ranked equity and discrimination as the top issue facing Australia (27.9%) followed closely by alcohol and drugs (26.7%). Close to one in five Tasmanian respondents identified population issues (17.2%) and mental health (17.1%) as major issues. A greater proportion of Tasmanian females than males identified mental health (23.0% compared with 12.4%) as an important national issue.
Young people in both Victoria and Tasmania were the only cohorts to report equity and discrimination as the top concern when compared to other States and Territories, most of which nominated alcohol & drugs as the top issue. Compared to the past two years, alcohol and drugsand equity and discrimination have risen as issues of national concern among Tasmanian respondents. Since 2014, mental health and the environment have been increasingly identified as key issues facing the nation among respondents from Tasmania.
Consistent with the national results, the top three issues of personal concern for Tasmania’s young people were coping with stress, school or study problems and body image.
The biggest survey of its kind, nationally the Mission Australia Youth Survey 2016 showed that for the record number of 22,000 15 to 19 year olds who took part, alcohol and drugs and equity and discrimination were the top two issues facing Australia today, with mental health entering the top three for the first time in the 15 year history of reporting. Concerns about mental health have doubled since 2011.
The report also shows that nationally, one in seven females reported experiencing gender discrimination which is more than three times the proportion of males. One in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of race or cultural background, more than three times the proportion of non-Indigenous young people.
Around one quarter of young people in Tasmania indicated that they had experienced some form of unfair treatment or discrimination in the last twelve months (25.6%). The main reasons young people in Tasmania cited for their experience of discrimination were gender (40.3%) and physical health/ability (29.5%).
Just over half of Tasmanian young people surveyed had witnessed someone else being unfairly treated or discriminated against in the last twelve months. The discrimination Tasmanians witnessed was most commonly on the basis of race/cultural background (53.7%) and sexuality (46.9%).
Noel Mundy, State Director Mission Australia said he was particularly concerned that young people in Tasmania had highlighted equity and discrimination as the top concern facing the nation as well as one in six young Tasmanians saying mental health is a concern.
“Mission Australia’s Youth Survey allows us to really tune into the aspirations and concerns of young people so we can influence policy decisions about their futures. Not only are we seeing that Tasmania’s young people are placing discrimination as their top concern for Australia, but we can see the numbers of young people both experiencing and witnessing discrimination as well as identifying mental health as a concern are absolutely unacceptable.
“We must do more to change these results. Political and social leaders need to lead the charge and challenge the status quo. We all need to speak up, challenge stereotypes and address discrimination when we see it. And by engaging governments, businesses, sports and other institutions, the media and schools, we can shape a future where discrimination is not tolerated.
“Commonwealth, state and local governments also have a key role in facilitating successful youth transitions and addressing these issues so young people have a firm foundation to transition from childhood to adulthood and achieve their future aspirations,” Mr Mundy added.
Since its inception 15 years ago, Mission Australia says the Youth Survey has become a critical piece of research and is used to inform the agendas of governments, policy makers and community organisations.