What’s in the Head of Young Australians?

Each year, youth charity organization Mission Australia conducts Australia’s largest formal survey of young people.

Over three months each year the survey asks Australians aged 11 to 24 what they value, where they turn for advice and support, what issues concern them, how they are involved with their community and their feelings about their future. The results are not only a valuable insight into the minds of young people, but also help social policy makers to produce information and develop services relevant to the needs of young Australians.

This year, just under 46,000 young people were surveyed, and the results were a mix of inspiring, concerning and thought-provoking.

Inspiring: In this year’s survey, young people were asked for the first time how they felt about the future. The answer was resoundingly optimistic, with over two-thirds responding that they felt positive about the future. It seems young Australians are a very grounded bunch, who, when asked what they value most highly, listed family and friendships well above financial security and personal independence.

Given the pasting that Gen-Y’s get from the media as self-obsessed and lazy, it’s pretty awesome to remember that young people are actually a lot more switched-on when it comes to values and ideals than we given them credit for.

Concerning: When asked where they would go for help on their main issues of concern, over 20 per cent of young Australians said they did not have anywhere to go for assistance and advice. For me, this was one of the saddest findings of the survey, and seems to explain, in a basic way, why suicide is the main cause of death for young Australians aged between 15 and 24.

Despite all the Facebooking, texting, Skyping, instant messaging and Google chatting, young Australians feel like they have no one to talk to. It’s obvious that traditional methods of support for young people are failing, and that more time and money needs to be invested in reaching out to young people through the channels that they are familiar with. For a generation that has grown up with the internet, accessing online support and communities feels safe, comfortable and easy, in a way that speaking to someone face to face just doesn’t.

Thought-provoking: A vast majority of the young people surveyed showed a strong awareness of the issues important to the wider community. When asked for unprompted views on the biggest issues facing Australian society, 45.7 per cent of young people listed the environment as a top concern.

It’s both comforting and inspiring to know that the future of the planet rests in the hands of people who value environmental issues. Young Australians have demonstrated that they want strong government leadership as well as a broad community response to environmental issues, and they are prepared to take personal responsibility for their environmental behavior in a way that previous generations have not.

For a deeper look into the minds of young Australians (and some pretty amazing web design) check out the You’re Probably Wrong Test

Masthead photo from this photostream, body photo from this photostream. Both used with the permission of a Creative Commons license.