Inequality in Australia: A Young Person’s Perspective


You will find below the link to a revealing piece of qualitative research from New South Wales, Australia. To what extent do you think this perspective resonates across the oceans?

youthaction nsw

Inequality in Australia: A Young Person’s Perspective

Prepared by Youth Action and Western Sydney Regional Information and Research Service (WESTIR)

About Youth Action

Youth Action is the peak organisation representing young people and youth services in NSW. Our work helps build the capacity of young people, youth workers and youth services, and we advocate for positive change on issues affecting these groups.

It is the role of Youth Action to:

• Respond to social and political agendas relating to young people and the youth service sector.
• Provide proactive leadership and advocacy to shape the agenda on issues affecting young people and youth services.
• Collaborate on issues that affect young people and youth workers.
• Promote a positive profile in the media and the community of young people and youth services.
• Build capacity for young people to speak out and take action on issues that affect them.
• Enhance the capacity of the youth services sector to provide high quality services.
• Ensure Youth Action’s organisational development, efficiency, effectiveness and good

The conclusion of the research emphasises housing as the area of most entrenched inequality, which chimes with the concerns expressed by a group of young people I was chatting with in the North-West of England a few months ago – hardly robust evidence, I know but not without significance!

Equitable access to education, housing and employment was regarded as essential for leading a full and healthy life. Interestingly, of the three topics, housing was seen as the area with the most entrenched inequality, with no respondents citing that affordability or inequality was not an issue or calling for policy actions that might increase inequality. In the topics of education and employment, some young people argued for further privatisation and deregulation – policy approaches that arguably would increase existing inequalities. However, housing was viewed by all respondents as a fundamental right. Young people were worried about the future, seeing education as a pathway to gain the qualifications needed for a fulfilling, well-paying job, which would allow them to afford rent and maybe buy a house in the future. However, buying a house was a distant and perhaps impossible dream rather than something they could plan. The responses provided by young people to the three topics discussed here, education, employment, and housing, reveal a politically and socially engaged cohort who are concerned about equality, and who want to see a better future both for themselves and for generations to come.

A sense of deja vu – welfare reform in Australia, young people amongst its victims

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In the pre-election circus here in the UK Cameron pledges to slash benefits cap to £23,000 and remove housing benefits for under 21s within first week of a general election win. Meanwhile the Australian government seems to be inspired by Ian Duncan-Smith’s failed attempt to revolutionise welfare by means of ‘universal credit’. The commissioned McClure report places its faith in Information Technology. Perhaps no one has noticed that it is estimated that a full roll out of the scheme in the UK will take more than 1,500 years. The latest Audit Office update stated the net cost to government would be £138m  over 10 years. Meanwhile the usual victims of welfare rationalisation – the unemployed, the disabled and young people are ignored.

Our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland have issued the following statement of anger and concern

25th February 2015

New welfare model fails young Australians

State and national youth peak bodies have expressed their strong concern about the Final Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform to the Minister for Social Service (the McClure Report), released earlier today. The McClure report proposes a simplification of the income support system, including changes to the Youth Allowance payment.

Mr Siyavash Doostkhah, Director of Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ) slammed the report as shallow and divisive. “The McClure report considers all young people under 22 years to be engaged in some form of education or employment. This is based on a false assumption that the current education and training systems are working adequately and that we are not facing very high youth unemployment rates across Australia” he said.

“In recent times we have lost some great youth employment programs which the Federal Government must reinstate if it is to be taken seriously. For example the Youth Connections program helped around 30,000 young Australians back into study and training each year, and showed a much higher success rate than Work for the Dole” said the YANQ Director.

At present, young people under 22 years who are studying, doing an apprenticeship or looking for work may still be eligible for some Youth Allowance, depending on their parents’ income. Under the proposed model, unless a young person under 22 was deemed fully independent, any income support would go to their parents. The report proposes this ‘Age of Independence’ as 22 years, on the grounds that young people are living at home longer.

The youth peaks from across Australia reject this arbitrary “age of independence”. The peaks also call for recognition of the reasons why young people are living at home longer: because they can’t access the housing market or can’t find enough secure employment. “Young people are trapped into depending on their families because there aren’t enough jobs for them to earn in their own right,” said Australian Youth Affairs Coalition’s National Director, Leo Fieldgrass. “We also need to do more to address the severe shortage of affordable housing, which is holding many young adults back” said Mr Fieldgrass.

CONTACT: Siyavash Doostkhah, Director, Youth Affairs Network of Queensland
Phone: 0407 655 785