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Prime Minister nets youth issues -

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Prime Minister nets youth issues

Bronwyn Herbert reported this story on Thursday, October 22, 2009 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: A report into the state of young people shows disturbing levels of mental and
physical illness among Australian teenagers.

The study was commissioned by the Federal Government and was launched this morning by the Minister
for Youth Kate Ellis.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also participated, using a web camera from his office at Parliament
House to speak the language of youth and to promise a $50 million fund for youth centres.

Bronwyn Herbert has our report.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Prime Minister may have been in the same city but Kevin Rudd announced his
"national conversation" with students from a Canberra high school via video link.

He says priorities include tackling cyber bullying and youth violence on the streets.

KEVIN RUDD: We must do better to make our streets safe for everyone to enjoy.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Prime Minister was speaking from Parliament House not only to the students but
also sharing the stage with the Minister for Youth Kate Ellis who was there at the school.

KATE ELLIS: These are the things that we've put forward. But now is the time when we want to start
listening to you. So I'm about to hand over to you and send the PM a first little message saying,
here at Lyneham High, we're ready to contribute some great ideas and I can't wait to hear what you
come up with.

BROWYN HERBERT: Together they announced a number of programs attempting to get young Australians
more involved in their communities.

This includes setting up youth centres in areas of high unemployment, including the Illawarra,
south-east Melbourne and the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

KATE ELLIS: We've also now announced $10 million to address one of the key recommendations that
came from the Youth 20-20 Summit. Youth centres, centres where young people can go to work on arts,
to work on business proposals, to bring the community together, $10 million which will be rolled
out immediately. We're starting now.

BRONWYN HERBERT: But today wasn't all good news for youth. A new report on the state of Australia's
young people shows that teenagers are facing plenty of health problems too.

Kate Ellis launched the study.

KATE ELLIS: Well I think the overall impression is that whilst the majority of young people are
doing very well, that there are certainly some emerging challenges out there that we need to be
conscious of which are quite different to the challenges which previous generations experienced.

We see through the report of new phenomena such as cyber bullying is a major concern. And there's a
whole range of things which illustrate that, from body image concerns through to self harm and
mutilation, which are issues which obviously governments need to take very seriously.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Dr Kristy Muir is with the social policy centre at the University Of New South
Wales and led the research.

She says binge drinking remains an issue and one in five teenagers admitted to taking drugs.

KRISTY MUIR: Young people seem to generally feel that taking alcohol is a lot safer, yet young
people have the highest rates of hospitalisation from alcohol use.

People who are taking different types of drugs, drugs that are considered to be in sort of softer
categories, like marijuana or cannabis, considered drugs that are quite harmless. And I think that
the perception that you can be careful and take drugs is something that possibly needs more work.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The study found a quarter of all teenagers are overweight or obese and one in four
live with a mental illness:

KRISTY MUIR: That basically means that they have enough symptoms to be defined as having a mental
disorder of some type, most commonly anxiety, depression and smaller numbers of people have more
serious mental disorders like schizophrenia and psychosis.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Kate Ellis says the Government is working to address these issues, particularly
mental health.

KATE ELLIS: Well in part it's about prioritising them, which is one of the reasons why we've
increased our expenditure in youth mental health programs so massively.

But also it's, frankly, about doing things like this, coming out and talking to young people and
recognising that it is different world that they're growing up in and governments might not
necessarily have gone through the same experiences but we need to understand them.

We need to come out and listen to young people and then act upon what we learn.

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Minister for Youth Kate Ellis ending that report from Bronwyn Herbert.