ON A MISSION

June 12, 2014

Guest contributions

missSometimes, trying to be heard can be like screaming underwater: you know you’re doing it, people can see your mouth moving but the words don’t come out properly and no-one can understand you. Or maybe you say something on Facebook; a really interesting issue-laden status update about a topic you’re really passionate about, but it gets lost in the sea of updates and suddenly you’re seeing ads for weight-loss shakes.

For twelve years now, Mission Australia has conducted annual surveys of youth, aged 15-19 years, in Australia. The results of this survey help to develop policies and programs for young Australians. This year, areas of focus for the survey include:

  • education and employment
  • participation in community activities
  • subjective wellbeing
  • issues of concern
  • sources of support
  • aspirations for the future

But just who are Mission Australia? Mission Australia is a charity that provides support to many Australians, with a particular focus on young people. They have a wide range of services including:

  • art and music programs
  • alternative education
  • drug and alcohol programs
  • mental health awareness
  • body image education
  • residential rehabilitation
  • supported accommodation
  • counselling
  • support around skills and certified training

Of course, this is only a small snap-shot of what this national organisation does – and with over 3,800 staff Australia-wide, that’s a lot of people to provide help and support! You can check out their website here to find more details about their services.

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So why would you want to do the survey? The reason is three-fold.

Nationally

The results are used when community organisations need evidence to show a need in the community. “Many schools and organisations have contacted Mission Australia over the years to let us know how strongly individual, state and national results from the Youth Survey have influenced both program implementation and policy development” says Leah Cave, research assistant at Mission Australia. It seems simple, but it can be forgotten easily enough – in order for organisations to know what programs and support young people need, they have to do research and be told.

Locally

Getting the results from the survey is imperative as it can help shape the services and activities that Council provide for youth in the area. Because the survey is Australia-wide, it’s important for us to see the results on a local level. These tailored reports “are used to gain an understanding of young people who use a particular service or program or who live in a particular region or local council area” says Cave, pointing out that Mission Australia receives feedback from these organisations that the results have helped them inform policy development and tailor programs to their area, and the needs of their area.

This year Banyule Council is taking an active part in the survey getting area-specific results. All the services that Banyule Youth Services offer are formed around an identified need, and this survey is another tool that will help Council plan for youth. Previously, Council has found that a big concern for young people is the way they are stereotyped in the media, so SHYNE (which Truth4Youth is a project of) was developed to address the negative image of young Australians in a more positive way. More support was also needed for GLBTQI identifying or questioning young people in the area so Queer Sphere was developed.

A balanced approach

Ensuring a balance of voices is extremely important for the survey, as Australia is an extremely diverse and multicultural country: as is the City of Banyule. Mission Australia individually marketed the survey to each state and territory. “The Youth Survey is extensively marketed each year to national organisations, services and programs which are associated with or cater to youth from a diverse range of backgrounds, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds” Cave says. She also says that on a Mission Australia-level, staff who work with youth clients encourage them to do the survey as well. Additionally, the survey is sent out to “almost every government, independent and catholic school across all States and Territories in Australia, allowing us to gather a good representation of Australia’s young people”.

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A major trend has occurred over the last few years: results have shown that increasingly, young people are worried about stresses surrounding VCE and the pressure on transitioning successfully from school into employment, training or higher education, and longer-term, finding suitable stable employment to support themselves. If you need help with that, Banyule Youth’s website has some great resources.

As Liana recently reported, the budget is hitting young Australians hard and this survey is an excellent opportunity to give your opinion on it. Previous results have indicated that hot media topics have influenced results, and so this year it is anticipated that the budget will be of concern, considering young people have been hit hard (see Liana’s report more a more in-depth analysis of the budget and what it means for young people).

Finally, this survey is a way to hold your head above water and have a voice which is heard. As explored earlier, the results influence policies, decisions and programs surrounding youth so it’s important that the services offered are the ones you’re interested in! And that can only happen if YOU have a voice and YOU say what’s important to you.

So what are you waiting for? Head to Mission Australia and fill out the survey before July 20th to fill it out and have your voice heard! (And don’t forget to pop in our organisational code, 78802, so your results are counted at a local level.)

*Not 15-19? If you’re interested in giving feedback about programs you’d like to see locally, contact Banyule Youth Services.

– Megan Burke

– Photos Amy Steele

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