National Youth Commission Youth Futures Summit

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Thank you and thank you to everyone joining us online this morning.

I would also like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the various lands on which we meet today, I’m on Ngunnawal land, and I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

I’m looking forward to answering some questions and hearing from you all today because I know that young Australians are increasingly feeling ignored and unrepresented by governments.

Young people are affected by decisions of every part of government and it’s important to Labor that you are heard directly and are able to impact government policy.

It is a bit of a cliché when older people tell young people they are ‘the future’. As you all know, younger Australians are already active participants in our community and economy – you are working, paying taxes, studying, caregivers, volunteering. You all have a huge stake in what is going on in Canberra.

Young Australians have also taken a big hit from the consequences of this pandemic and recession.

Over the last few months I’ve been holding forums across the country, and what I’m hearing is that young people are really concerned about:

  • Financial stress and bearing the brunt of job losses,
  • Disruption to your studies, and
  • Decreased mental wellbeing.

I want to particularly acknowledge social disruption as a particular sacrifice young people are making for the health of our community.

It’s harder to see friends, find partners, celebrate milestones like birthdays, and enjoy rites of passage like graduations and formals in 2020.

And of course we know that existing problems like job insecurity and the lack of real wages growth, rental and housing affordability, increasing barriers to education and training, and the looming challenge of climate change aren’t going to get any better unless we take this crisis as an opportunity to act.

This generation will have the odds stacked against them.

You will be trying to enter the workforce, the housing market, and commence education and training in the midst of the first recession in 30 years.

We know career paths and wages growth have been hit hard since the GFC, and that home ownership is becoming harder and harder.

But this future is not inevitable – the government can shift the dial on all of these problems.

We can’t just shrug our shoulders and accept the next generation will have to live with less job opportunities, less housing security, less retirement savings and worse mental wellbeing.

To begin with, it should be the role of the Minister for Youth to coordinate a holistic response to ensure young people don’t get ignored or left behind.

Trying to address the interrelated challenges facing young people with isolated, band-aid solutions will fail.

And yet, there hasn’t been a National Youth Strategy developed in over a decade.

That’s why Labor is calling on the Morrison Government to work with young people and urgently design a comprehensive COVID-19 Youth Recovery Strategy.

We need a strategy that considers how the myriad of problems facing young people interplay, and produces real solutions and policies to successfully address them.

We need the many branches of government – all those different agencies and departments – working together to deliver better outcomes for younger Australians.

The strategy must also be the vehicle for young people to have oversight of and input in their own futures.

It must be co-designed with young Australians, with young people sharing the helm. And I mean genuinely co-designed – not just holding a few focus groups and then saying job done.

It must also include accountability measures and targets, so young people have a mechanism to hold the government to account and ensure their interests are being championed.

Unfortunately, young people are clearly not a priority for the Coalition Government which has been mostly silent on the issues facing young Australians.

When asked on Monday the Prime Minister failed to commit to prioritising a youth strategy. He just gave more platitudes and more jingoistic rhetoric.

We need a lot more than that to give younger Australians a better go.

But Labor is building the case and increasing pressure on the Government to act on these issues and Anthony and I are here this morning to make sure that the issues we’re raising are the ones most important to you.

I don’t want the conversation to end here. My door is always open. I want a genuine conversation with you, so please get in touch with me on social media or through my office.

I can’t wait to hear your questions – fire away.


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Monday, 24 August 2020
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