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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1302


Mr STAPLES(10.00) —I speak on the allocation to youth affairs in the Budget. In opening, I think it is very important to note, as a very clear indication of the Government's commitment to our young people, the fact that the Office of Youth Affairs has been substantially upgraded now to divisional status within the Department of Education and Youth Affairs. We should note that $1. 488m has been allocated to youth affairs. Within that allocation, $300,000 in 1983-84 is going to be spent on preparation for International Youth Year which will be held the year after next in 1985. The Government's total commitment to International Youth Year over three years stands at $2m which is quite a substantial amount. I believe that we are going to get very good value from that $2m. I have great faith in community bodies such as the Youth Affairs Council of Australia. I have great faith in the dedication and ability of people working in the youth field both in the government and non-government sector. But most of all, I have great faith in the young people of Australia. I think we should be ready to show our faith by giving them more say in the world in which they live.

Very few members of this Committee would be so unaware as to suggest that Australia's youth do not have a difficult future in front of them. So many young people today feel quite powerless in a capitalistic, materialistic system that basically encourages unrealistic expectations of career and success in today's economy, that encourages status derived from material wealth, position and power from a rigid adherence to the paid employment ethic as a criterion of social worthiness and really quite a harsh assessment of the values of young people today. Any person who has had any involvement with young people will know that young people will respond enthusiastically to the opportunity to speak out about their lives, to be involved in the community and to participate in decision making because participation itself is a very important word and a very important process. It comes before consensus because one cannot have consensus unless people have been allowed to participate in discussions and the ordering of their lives and to feel part of the decision making process itself.

The Youth Affairs Council of Australia has just produced a report entitled ' Creating Tomorrow Today'. Five thousand young people throughout Australia have expressed their views-young people in cities, in rural areas and in disadvantaged communities; young people from wealthy families and poor families. It has not been a simple questionnaire analysis; it has been a consultative process with discussion of issues, with the real involvement of young people. ' Creating Tomorrow Today' is in effect an expose of the attitudes and aspirations of Australian youth. The report proposes directions to us in the key areas of concern to young people. Part one gives us an overview of the situation. Part two details the activities that occurred within each State in the consultative process. This very important area of the report details for us the attitudes of our youth. It details for us in their language, in their feelings, what they believe is happening in their society, in our society. It lays out for us what young people really feel about us and the society we have produced and which we manage. It covers a wide range of subjects.

Our young people talk to us through this report about accommodation, education, their own identity, work and unemployment, income security, health, international relations, the law, road safety, the environment, the media, recreation and leisure and human relations. It is there for us to read. It is our children talking to us of their needs, their fears and their hopes. In a nutshell, what it says is that if we are really serious and care about our young people, first of all we need to keep talking with them to develop further our communications in order to shrink the generation gap. We need to be prepared to empower young people, to allow them a role-a new and developing role-in what is essentially a society geared to people much older than themselves.

Part of the youth affairs allocation in this Budget will be spent on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development review team which will be visiting Australia from 20 November this year. That review team-an initiative put forward by this Government-is being asked to review government policies and programs in education, training, employment and income support in the light of international experience. The review team will be asked to suggest ways to better meet the needs of young people and to look at the role of income support schemes as incentives to encourage young people to continue education and training. It will be asked to advise whether overseas approaches to providing alternative forms of work and living arrangements for young people, such as co- operatives and community service activities, can be applied successfully in Australia.

This review is long overdue and again it is a clear indication of the Government's serious attention to the young people of Australia. Today's young people face problems of a magnitude as great as any generation before them in Australia. This Government's allocation of $1.488m clearly reflects its concern in this regard. As I said before, 1985 is International Youth Year. What will that mean to us? What will it mean to our young people? What will we get for our $2m. Will it be 365 days of tokenism and games or will we really enact laws that will share power with young people, power that bears some relationship to the responsibilities that we place upon them? What we do in International Youth Year will be of vital significance to the wellbeing of our society in the closing years of the twentieth century.

The theme of International Youth Year has been set. It is participation, development and peace. I do not think anyone can really complain about that. The participation process has begun and we must not let it fade. This process will be continued. 'Creating Tomorrow Today' issues serious challenges to the Parliament. It issues challenges to government departments, to the non- government youth sector such as the Youth Affairs Council of Australia and other bodies, to the media and to our general community. We have to look at sharing power with young people, communicating with young people, redefining what we call work and what we expect of our young people in a rapidly changing and shrinking world.

Our elderly people, who bore the brunt of the depression and the wars, have much to teach us. Clearly our young people of today have much to teach us and I think we should be prepared to learn and also to consult more with young people in a new role, in a new deal for this new generation. We had better do this because, if nothing else, they are going to be pushing our wheelchairs and looking after the switches on our respirators. We also have to look after the people who support and encourage those who are working under very trying conditions with young people. 'Creating Tomorrow Today' gives us the questions and many of the answers. I think I can sum it all up in the words of one of the 5,000 young Australians who expressed their feelings in this report:

I wish my parents really cared

I just wish people weren't so scared,

To listen to us, when we say what we feel,

And give us kids a better deal.

The allocation of money and the work that is going in to the youth affairs area under this Government will do just that.