Homelessness, domestic violence big issues facing Mid West youth

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Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
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Mission Australia’s Dr Paul Royce says access to income is a major issue faced by young people in the region.
Camera IconMission Australia’s Dr Paul Royce says access to income is a major issue faced by young people in the region. Credit: Adam Poulsen, The Geraldton Guardian

Alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, access to income and homelessness are some of the biggest issues facing teenagers in the Mid West and Gascoyne, according to Mission Australia.

The Christian community service charity recently launched its 17th annual national Youth Survey for Australians aged 15-19.

The organisation is calling on young people in the Mid West and Gascoyne to complete this year’s survey, which focuses on questions about alcohol and drugs, social media and barriers to employment.

Mission Australia Mid West-Gascoyne area manager Paul Royce said major issues identified in previous surveys could be directly linked to homelessness.

“Family domestic violence (can lead to) kids who are quite young believing it’s safer to be somewhere else rather than at home,” he said.

“When alcohol and drug use is present in the home, young people are less likely to stay at home, because it’s just safer for them to be out on the street.

“Sometimes mums will drop the kids off at a relative’s house because they know it’s going to be safer than home. That’s considered homelessness as well, and it has a huge impact on young people’s wellbeing.”

Dr Royce said access to income was a significant barrier stopping young people from achieving independence.

“Some go without any income at all rather than trying to jump through the hoops necessary to get income — whether it’s through Centrelink or paid employment,” he said.

“There’s a very competitive market now in terms of employment, and the opportunities for young people aren’t the same as they were 20 or 30 years ago.”

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Dr Royce, who is based in Geraldton, said domestic overcrowding was another significant problem.

“For some of the families that we support and visit across the region, there might be 10 or 12 people living in a house,” he said.

Dr Royce said past surveys revealed poor mental health was persistent throughout Australia.

“Many young people don’t actually disclose their mental health issues to anyone. It’s something that sits inside of them,” he said.

“Most of the time it’s that feeling of being overwhelmed by a whole range of things – school, expectations from friends or family… concerns about their place in the world, and so on.”

Mission Australia WA State director Jo Sadler said the survey was the largest of its kind in Australia and provided an important snapshot of the issues facing young Australians.

“It equips organisations like Mission Australia with current evidence on how young people are faring so we can advocate on their behalf for the services and broader policy changes they need,” she said.

“By providing a platform where they can share their aspirations, concerns and thoughts year on year, it offers invaluable insights into what’s really going on in their lives.”

To complete the survey, visit missionaustralia.com.au/youthsurvey before July 31.

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