Would your local member of parliament make public transport free for young people who are homeless or dealing with family violence?

How would your local member go about strengthening career opportunities for young people with disability?

What would your local member do to improve young people’s access to mental health services in rural communities?

Does your local member support Respectful Relationships Education being embedded into every school in Victoria?

If you don't know the answers to these questions (or if you don't like the answers!) it's time to get busy.

In the lead-up to the 2018 state election we want every member of parliament, and every candidate contesting a seat, to know that young people’s wellbeing, opportunities and voices are critical.

What is #vicyouth2020?

Recently YACVic was proud to announce the release of #vicyouth2020 — our action plan for building a better Victoria for young people. We want to make this the best state for young people to grow up in. Victoria should be a place where every young person lives in a safe and loving home, enjoys good health and wellbeing, and takes part in a quality education that helps them into a rewarding career. We want every young Victorian to grow up in a peaceful community with excellent transport and support services,  have connections to culture and the natural environment, and a real say in their lives and our democracy.

We don't currently live in this Victoria but we can create it.

Unfortunately right now a lot of young Victorians don’t have the support or opportunities they need. Nearly a third of young Victorians don’t believe they have a trusted adult in their lives. One in ten don’t manage to complete Year 12 or a similar qualification by the time they turn 19. Around half are coping with stress. Young Victorians are facing housing and job shortages; with increased mental health concerns.

In #vicyouth2020, we made over 140 recommendations for steps to make Victoria the best state for young people. These included:

  • Invest in specialist youth homelessness services and supported housing for young people; with a particular focus on interface, rural and regional areas.
  • Intervene effectively with young people who are ‘couch surfing’, especially in rural, regional and interface areas. Support should be holistic; ensuring young people also get help to stay connected to school and deal with other issues, such family violence and transport.
  • Build 3,000 extra public and community homes each year to meet the needs of people who are eligible for priority housing and support the Everybody’s Home campaign.
  • Fund a fully integrated youth mental health service system, and youth alcohol and other drug service system, ranging from early intervention to specialist care. Better access for rural communities should be a priority.
  • Ensure every school student can access a ‘standard basket of education goods’, covering all the activities and items (including technology), which are necessary to provide free instruction to all students.
  • Develop a state-wide youth work strategy, with funding attached to employ new youth workers in areas of high need, including rural shires.
  • Strengthen public transport in rural, regional and interface areas, to improve young people’s access to training, employment, services and community life.
  • Fund a new initiative to recruit, train and employ youth workers from diverse communities, prioritising Aboriginal communities, refugee and migrant communities, and rural and regional communities.
  • Commit to ending the high imprisonment of Aboriginal young people, young people with disability, young people who have been in out-of-home care, and young people from Pacific Islander, Māori and African backgrounds. Fund culturally appropriate programs that divert young people from the justice system and strengthen engagement with education, culture and community.

Over the next two years, we want to see the Victorian Government, community, and youth sector take the first steps in this plan. Then we'll be on the right path to a better future.

What positive steps have been done already

Are we feeling optimistic? Absolutely! Recently we’ve seen the major parties pledge some positive steps they would take to build a better state for young people.

Recent undertakings by the Victorian Government have included:

  • Raising the age of leaving out-of-home care from 18 to 21, so that young people can stay longer with their carers if they wish, and be better supported to get ready for adult life. (This is a major development, and aligns with one of the key priorities of #vicyouth2020.)
  • Building a new 20-bed youth residential rehabilitation facility in Gippsland for young people aged 16–21 to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
  • Rent Fair Victoria’: a plan for rental reform, shaped strongly by the ‘Make Renting Fair’ campaign, which YACVic has been proud to support. We welcome the Victorian Government's commitment to reforms which will offer tenants greater security from abrupt or no-reason evictions and rent increases, enable tenants to make minor modifications (including disability modifications) and recover their bonds faster, and ensure that tenants can have pets without additional bond payments. The ‘Make Renting Fair’ campaign continues to urge ongoing reforms in areas including health, safety and efficiency standards for properties, and rejecting onerous and unfair lease terms. YACVic continues to support this campaign.
  • Delivering five new Empower projects to help young people live better and more connected lives in Swan Hill, Moorabool Shire, Geelong, Whittlesea, and Melbourne's north-east. The new funding is intended to support at least 250 young people per annum for the next four years.
  • A new trial to provide heavily discounted public transport to Victorians facing homelessness and disadvantage.
  • Expanding the Le Mana program to support young people from Pacific Islander communities become more engaged, socially connected and on positive pathways, in partnership with the Centre for Multicultural Youth, local government, and the United Pasifika Council of Victoria.
  • Building 16 new Neighbourhood Houses and delivering new funding to 11 existing houses, most in regional and interface areas. Neighbourhood Houses are places where people connect, learn new skills and get support with employment, training, health and volunteering.

Meanwhile, there have been some welcome undertakings from the Liberal Nationals, including:

  • A new program to provide transitional support for tertiary students from rural communities who relocate to Melbourne or a regional city to study, to help them deal with the challenges of isolation and independent living.
  • A ‘European-style High Speed Rail’ project to link Melbourne with regional cities, and a pledge to double the current number of return rail services from Shepparton to Melbourne.
  • Better coordination of allied health, education and early childhood services in rural and regional areas through a hub model, funded through a ‘Brighter Futures Fund’.
  • Funding SYN FM to give more young people a voice in the media, through industry mentoring, leadership and media training programs.

We’ve created an action plan now what can you do?

You can help make a difference! We’ve included information and questions you can use in our #vicyouth2020 action plan. Don’t forget to ask your local candidates about how they plan to improve the lives of young people for the 2018 Victorian election.

You might also check out Write it up, write it loud: a guide on messaging your MP. Let’s put young people’s needs front and centre in the 2018 election.