Disadvantaged youth give Australia cause to pause

30 Jan 2019

Five years ago, Australia’s youth (ages 12-24), accounted for one-fifth of its population.

What does the future look like, when alarming numbers of our Australian youth are increasingly vulnerable?

According to Mission Australia’s Youth Survey, the top three issues of national concern as highlighted by participants, were mental health, alcohol and drugs, and equality and discrimination.

And their concerns are startlingly valid:

  • Every week in Australia, four teenagers are killed due to alcohol-related incidents.
  • Every month, 22,000 young people turn to alcohol and drug support services for help.
  • And yet, according to a 2018 World Health Organization report, drug misuse is the number 01 most stigmatised health issue.

“Those who are vulnerable need help that is first of all non-judgmental and which doesn’t start out by viewing us as statistics”, comments one of the many individuals who has received help at Youth Support + Advocacy Services (YSAS) in Victoria, an organisation committed to providing support to disadvantaged youth, and the organisation behind febfast, Australia’s longest-running month-long challenge. febfast is the only event of this nature solely dedicated to vulnerable youth.

The team at YSAS sees the saddening presentations on an everyday, multiple-times-a-day basis. To date, the organisation has reached out to and transformed the lives of more than 20,000 youth.

The key issues, in a number perspective

According to the Youth Needs Census in 2016, completed by workers from 35 government funded Victorian Youth Alcohol and Drug treatment services regarding the young people in their care:

a. Dependence on substances

  • 48% cannabis
  • 13% methamphetamine
  • 11% alcohol

b. Drug related risk and harm

  • 37% of young people experienced one of the following substance related harms in the three months before the census:
  • Hospital or ambulance attendance
  • Physical injuries or harm
  • Driving while substance affected
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Being the victim/or perpetrator of physical violence  

c. Abuse, neglect and trauma

Note: Percentages reported based upon what workers report knowing. Reporting may not reflect true rates of these experiences as the Census did not include interviews or metrics

  • 36% have experienced neglect
  • 51% emotional abuse
  • 39% physical abuse
  • 17% sexual abuse
  • 22% were the victims of violent crimes

d. Mental health

  • 35% have a current mental health diagnosis
  • 39% non-suicidally self-injure
  • 20% have attempted suicide in the past

e. Criminal activity

  • 15% of young people in treatment had engaged in criminal activity in the past four weeks
  • 49.5% had ever been involved in the criminal justice system

f. Education and employment

  • 19% of young people were in education and 21% in employment

g. Family

  • 50% had significant conflict with their families
  • 29% are completely disconnected from family

f. Housing stability

  • 58% had current difficulties in housing stability

Why is febfast so important?

  • Registration and donation proceeds from febfast are channelled towards funding youth workers and additional services for disadvantaged youth across Australia.
  • To register, click here.
  • All febfast beneficiary partners across Australia can be found here