How we did it
The report is the results of a multi-tiered research process designed to provide a comprehensive story of the views of young people in Australia today. This proves utilised various methods, including a literature review, focus groups, surveys and online discussion forums. Over 600 young Australians aged 13-18 took part in this research, providing a diversity of viewpoints that make a meaningful contribution to the current conversation on what’s important to young Australians today.
What we discovered
The findings of the report show that although young people are excited and positive about the future, they are also fully aware of the challenges they will be presented and the issues that are going on in the world today. However, putting aside any worries they might have, it’s the ‘pursuit of happiness’ for not only themselves but everyone around them that is the most important thing.
You’ll see from this report that the three most important factors impacting the happiness of Australia’s young people are not material things, but instead, are all about personal connectivity.
Young Australians today believe strongly in freedom of expression and the right to have their voices heard without any fear of being judged. Most of these young people believe they are currently able to do this, however there are a number of them who are worried that this basic human right will be restricted in the future.
There are some underlying feelings from young people that their opinions are not being taken seriously and are not heard, due to their age and seeming lack of life experience. There is a strong hope that this will not be the case for future generations, and young people (particularly females) are happy to take on this role of change.
There is a concern among young people that social media creates judgement and negativity, however at the same time they recognise that is can also be utilised as a platform to promote change and be heard.
Many young Australians are worried that the current education system doesn’t allow for freedom of expression and thus they are being pushed to conform instead of being encouraged to be themselves.
There is a strong belief that embracing social justice will have a huge positive impact on future happiness. Young Australians want full equality across all walks of life, including; gender, sexuality, nationality and religion.
A new, more tolerant culture is trending among young people, and they are optimistic about wanting to take the lead to implement more change in the future. Despite this optimism, there still remains some concern that discrimination will always remain until some extent or perhaps even worsen in the future. Some young people express the need for better support by good government example and more education tools to reduce discrimination.
‘Making a difference’ is the second most important issue overall for young people.
Despite what some may believe, young Australians know they are privileged and they appreciate it. They are well aware that quality of life in Australia is much higher than that of other countries and most want to use their privilege to give back and help others.
The vast majority of young people feel safe living in Australia, although there are a few who do feel threatened by the unrest happening in other parts of the world and what this may mean for the future. Consequently, they are not just thinking of their own personal hopes and dreams for the future, but also how they can improve the quality of life for others.
“The sense of social responsibility is becoming the basis for many of our life choices, and expectations”
Young Australians are aware of the challenges that will arise for them in the future, but overall recognize that there are plenty of opportunities to help them achieve their hopes and dreams.
Challenges they believe will present in the future:
- Employment/job shortages
- Rising cost of living
- Transition into adulthood
- Pressure to conform
- Pressure from parents and teachers
- Anxiety about school
“We have so many pressures from family, school and wider communities. We are young and inexperienced. We have strong wills but are not sure what the right path is for us to be happy” Female, 16
A large number of young people are aware of the impact human activity is having on the environment and worry about what this may mean for their own future and future generations. Some are even thinking about choosing careers paths where they can make a difference by investigating ways to positively impact the environment.
“I am very concerned about rising pollution levels, global warming, feeding a growing world and preserving our native habitats and species. I fear that biodiversity will decrease due to a large number of factors, and that extreme weather events will become more common and more deadly” Male, 17
Family and friends will always play a large role in the lives of young people, however there seems to be a struggle to find a balance between wanting to start families of their own, and fulfilling desires to travel, tackle world issues, and focus on careers.
The main concerns when it comes to family and the future are:
- Losing touch with friends and family over life’s journey
- Having a fractured or broken household, usually as a result of divorce
“I am concerned with the fact that more and more people are getting divorces, and that this tends to be quite normal in today’s society. Speaking from personal experience, I know how this can affect children; it’s not a nice feeling” Male, 18
Young Australians are keen to travel, live or work overseas in order to experience different cultures and see how those in others parts of the world live. They view exploration as a tool towards personal growth and many want to do this before they begin their professional careers or settle down with families of their own.
As a result of Australia’s cultural diversity, many young people want to explore their roots and connect with their own family history through travel.
The thirst for adventure is something that harbors a better future for the young Australians of today, creating more culturally aware and educated young minds.
Young Australians are hopeful and positive for the future, despite the everyday challenges they are forced to face. They are determined to realize their own personal dreams and are willing to work hard to achieve them, while also recognizing that there are problems in the world that they need to tackle head on in order to create positive change for a better future.