NINETY-NINE percent of youth are concerned about the use of drugs in their community, according to a new Mission Australia report.
More than 21,000 young people aged 15 to 19 from across the country completed Mission Australia’s latest Youth Survey, which asked youth living in low, moderate or high socio-economic status (SES) areas about their concerns over alcohol and drug use, feeling safe in their community, participating in community and social activities and experiencing or witnessing discrimination.
The top three issues were alcohol and drugs, equity and discrimination and mental health, with almost all (99.3 per cent) of those surveyed admitting they were “seriously concerned” about the use of at least one type of drug in their community.
There were also some large gaps between SES areas, with 28 per cent of low SES respondents saying they did not believe people in their local area could be trusted, a big jump from the 12 per cent of high SES respondents who said the same.
Sport participation was also the least in low SES areas at 71 per cent, down from 80 per cent in high SES areas, while 42 per cent of low SES youth said they felt unsafe while walking alone in the dark, up from 28 per cent in high SES areas.
Mission Australia WA state director Jo Sadler said the findings confirmed that despite their socio-economic status, young people shared similar challenges.
“We work with young people every day through our many services in Perth and across WA, with the aim of facing these challenges head on and supporting young people to achieve their goals,” she said.
“Our team at Wattle House (Maddington) work to combat challenges facing families and young people who are at risk of homelessness by supporting these families and young people to access stable accommodation.
“Our team also walk alongside families and young people to gain access to practical services such as education, employment and training and specialist drug and alcohol services to support them and maintain this stable accommodation for the long term.”
Not-for-profit organisation Save the Children Australia runs a number of youth-based programs throughout the south-east suburbs, and place-based strategies manager Karina Chicote said it was important to create opportunities for local youth to have their say as they often felt they weren’t heard.
“The statistic in the report about young people from lower socio economic areas not feeling comfortable in public spaces sounds really familiar to people who work with young people in Armadale and Gosnells,” she said.
“This is one of the reasons why dedicated youth spaces like youth centres are really important because young people want safe spaces where they can be themselves, hang out with friends, participate in activities and get support for other challenges they face.
“If young people are looking for a forum where they can make their voice heard, they should check out the Gosnells Youth Advisory Council or City of Armadale’s Kinetic group.”