Young people need voice in Parliament

Young people need voice in Parliament

NXT MP Rebekha Sharkie, Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan and NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore have called on the Federal Government to reinstate a Minister for Young People, and to install the position in its Cabinet.

It is essential for the future of all Australians that the interests of our young people are made the responsibility of a Federal Minister and that this Minister sits within Cabinet to voice the needs and concerns of our young people,” Ms Sharkie said.

“Today we find out from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence that more than 650,000 young people were unemployed or underemployed last month,” Ms Sharkie said.

“And that in the past 15 years the gap between the actual working hours of a young person and the hours they want to work is growing ever wider.

“As a country we are failing our young people if the first experience they have when leaving education is to end up on the unemployment queue.

“This growing problem will only be exacerbated by Government policy that doesn’t have oversight at the highest level.”

Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan said she was proud to stand up for the vital role young people play in making rural and regional Australia strong and resilient.

“Our young people have immense capacity to achieve and contribute,” Ms McGowan said.

“They are current citizens and not just a future resource. This is a call for bipartisan support to ensure they are encouraged, engaged and consulted at every step.

“In Indi and across Australia young people are already acting on the issues that concern them – renewable energy, telecommunications, transport, education, housing and employment security. For our nation to succeed they need a voice in decision-making across all areas, not just around traditional youth issues.”

The first Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs was appointed by the Fraser Government in 1978.

Subsequent Labor and Coalition Governments have appointed Ministers with a portfolio concerned with youth, and the Howard Government had three different Ministers who held the youth affairs portfolio.

The Abbott Government abolished the youth portfolio in 2013.

“I believe our young people are the worse for that 2013 decision,” Ms Sharkie said.

“The Prime Minister said last week in Question Time that he had a ‘thoroughly youthful front bench … who were thoroughly committed to delivering great opportunities for young Australians’ but you only have to look at the employment statistics to see little evidence of the targeted consultation promised by the Coalition in 2014

“This Friday marks the start of what is likely to be the last National Youth Week with no funding for this national advocacy and awareness week in the budget forward estimates.

“National Youth Week is an opportunity for young people to express their ideas and views and be heard.

“What sort of message does it send to our young people when we cut funding for this week?

“Youth Week funding has been slashed from more than $3 million in 2014/15 to about $535,000 in the past two financial years and now there’s no money at all.

“The Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey suggests that young people struggle to engage with major political parties.

“Not having Youth Minister acts as a clear signal that engagement with young people is not a priority for this Government.”

According to the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, the youth unemployment rate was 13.5 per cent (282,000 young people) while 18 per cent (377,000) were underemployed in February 2017.

These rates were considered well above the levels in the months preceding the Global Financial Crisis when the rates were below 10 and 11 per cent respectively.

NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, the youngest female member of parliament, will move a motion on the same terms in the Senate tomorrow.

“Politicians need to stop speaking at young people and start speaking with them if there is to be better engagement with youth,” she said.

“You have to question whether decisions on issues affecting young people, such as moves to de-fund Headspace, would’ve been made if there had been a Minister for Young People.”

CAPTION: Member for Indi Cathy McGowan, left, NXT Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore at today's news conference calling on the Government to appoint a Minister for Young People.

  • More than 650,000 young people are unemployed or underemployed.
  • 18% Youth underemployment rate – highest in 40 years
  • 13.5% Youth unemployment rate, higher in many regional areas. Higher than Australia had during the Global Financial Crisis
  • This year could be the last National Youth Week with no funding in forward estimates and no commitment from Government to reinstate funding. 
  • National Youth Week once received around $3M in federal funding and each State Government would supplement their share to ensure activities across their State. There is no money in the Forward Estimates past this year to fund National Youth Week.
  • The National Peak Body representing young people ‘Australian Youth Affairs Coalition’ lost funding back in 2014, leaving no national advocacy platform for young people.
  • Ms Sharkie has set up a Young Mayo group in her electorate to directly consult with local young people and she has hosted four forums to date.