Important Issues For The Youth Of The Illawarra

Click here to watch Sharon’s speech

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:56): Like many of my colleagues in this place, I have been sharing the national Youth Action online survey as they seek the views of young people aged 15 to 24 on what they see as important issues for us in the upcoming election. I have also had the opportunity to talk to lots of local young people. One young woman, Katrina Nethery, has done some research and written a speech for me on important issues for the young people of the Illawarra. I would like to share it with the chamber, and say thank you to Katrina for her work. She says:

There are many important issues faced by the young people of the Illawarra today, including an array of mental health issues, homelessness, and a high unemployment rate, and whilst these issues are not unique to the Illawarra, they still do play a significant role in the lives of many youths who live there.

Mental illness can be found in one in five adolescents, and is most prevalent in 18-24 year-olds, however only one in four young people with mental illness receive professional care. These statistics are Australia-wide, however can be applied to the Illawarra. In 2013, there were 59,910 youths living in the region aged between 5-24 years old, and 11,982 of these young people were suffering from a mental illness. Of those, approximately 2,995 would have received professional care. Major obstacles for parents trying to acquire professional care for their child can include the cost of attending services after those covered by the Medicare rebate, not knowing where to find help and support, and long waiting lists to see a professional. Youths affected by mental illness can also sometimes be forced out of home when their family doesn't recognise or understand their disorder, contributing to the large number of homeless youths living in the region.

Homelessness affects approximately 1,205 people living in the Illawarra, and a large proportion of these people are youths. Mental illness, domestic violence, family breakdowns and housing crises are large contributors to homelessness; however there can also be a number of other causative factors. Unemployment can also be a significant factor in youth homelessness, as the lack of financial stability and affordable rent makes finding a stable home difficult.

Katrina goes on to outline in particular how, as those three issues interact—mental illness, homelessness and youth unemployment—they can have many and lasting impacts on the lives of young people, and particularly in our region of the Illawarra. She acknowledges there are programs, initiatives and funding, but makes the point that the problems are still prevalent in the community and a lot more remains to be done. These issues will remain, but by aiming to minimise the number of people affected, the situation can be greatly improved. Thank you, Katrina, for your research and speech.