Imagine a future Victoria where all young people do well. Where every young person lives in a safe and loving home, with good health and well-being.
Where all young people enjoy a good education that helps them into a rewarding career. A state where young people have a real say in their lives and our democracy.
A Victoria where, no matter where you live, you can grow up in peaceful neighbourhoods with excellent transport and support services. We don’t currently live in this Victoria, but we can create it.
Right now, too many young Victorians don’t have the support or opportunities they need. Many don’t think they have a trusted adult in their lives.
One in 10 young Victorians don’t manage to complete year 12 or a similar qualification by the time they turn 19. Our young people are facing housing and job shortages and increased mental health concerns. Many experience violence or discrimination.
To build the future our children and young people deserve, we need to act now. The #vicyouth2020 campaign is our plan for action. It will help our state’s leaders make the right choices for young people to live their best lives. By 2020, we want the Victorian government, communities and our amazing youth services to have taken the first steps together in this plan. Then we’ll be on the path to a better future.
Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the state’s peak body for young Victorians and the youth support sector. Over the last 12 months, we’ve travelled around the state to speak with young people and youth workers about what’s important to them and their communities.
Based on these conversations we’ve identified nine things that all young people need to live their best lives:
- A secure and loving home
- Good health and recovery from illness or substance misuse
- Freedom from violence, bullying and discrimination
- A good education
- Pathways to a fulfilling career
- A real voice in decisions
- Nurturing connections to culture, community and environment
- A justice system that respects and keeps everyone safe
- Access to high-quality services and transport
#vicyouth2020 contains the ideas to make this happen. We’ve made 145 policy and practice recommendations across the nine themes, to help our state's leaders respond to the issues facing young people and our wider community.
A key focus of #vicyouth2020 is securing a better deal for young people growing up in rural, regional and “interface” communities (those on the outer edges of Melbourne). These communities are diverse and have many strengths. They range from small towns to large and growing cities, from established suburbs to brand new developments. They are home to newly arrived families from many different backgrounds, and families who have been in the area for generations. Youth support services in these areas are known for working flexibly and creatively with limited resources. Local government youth services and Local Learning and Employment Networks, in particular, play key roles.
But for all the strengths of these communities, young people who grow up in rural, regional and interface areas are unfortunately more vulnerable to disadvantage and isolation. They have fewer employment and education opportunities, and far less access to transport and vital youth support services than their peers in inner-Melbourne.
Ahead of the 2018 state election, we’re calling on political parties to commit to improving access to youth support services in rural, regional and interface areas. We need a statewide youth support strategy, which increases the amount of specialist youth support for issues like mental health, homelessness, family violence, alcohol and drug prevention and treatment. We also need improved transport options so young people and their families can get to the services. Every community deserves access to trained and supported youth workers. We want parties to commit to long-term, realistic funding for rural and regional youth services, which take into account local needs and expertise.
We’d love to see our own YACVic Rural initiative renewed – over the last two years we’ve empowered more than 2000 young Victorians to understand and get involved in local community issues and resourced more than 2000 youth workers.
This program has been funded by the Victorian government to focus on the southern Mallee and the south coast regions, and we know there’s huge demand to roll it out to other parts of our state.
You can help make things better for young people in your community. Read through #vicyouth2020 at www.vicyouth.org.au then ask your local state election candidates how they’ll improve the lives of young Victorians.
Leo Fieldgrass is chief executive officer of Youth Affairs Council Victoria.