(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s youth now consider the environment the second most important issue in the country, a survey of teenagers has found.
More than 25,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 answered the annual survey by Mission Australia, which released a report on its findings on Tuesday.
When asked about the most important issues in Australia, mental health ranked highest with 36.2 per cent, followed by the environment (34.2 per cent), and equity and discrimination (24.8 per cent).
The percentage of young people who said the environment was a key issue more than tripled from 9.2 per cent in 2018.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth ranked mental health, alcohol and drugs, and equity and discrimination as their three most important issues, with the environment coming in at No. 4.
Fewer than one in 10 young people (7.2 per cent) said they felt like they have a say all of the time in public affairs.
However, 45.2 per cent of respondents said they had a say when with friends, and 44.2 per cent said they did with family.
Mission Australia’s chief executive James Toomey says there is a clear indication that young people in Australia feel “disenfranchised and deeply concerned”.
“The apparent inability to have their voices heard through formal channels is perhaps causing them to engage in informal ways to get heard, such as climate strikes,” Mr Toomey writes in the report.
“The growing public dialogue and experience of issues, such as extreme weather events and drought, are clearly affecting young people’s view of the world,” he says.
More than one in five respondents (21 per cent) said they had experienced bullying in the past 12 months, with 79.9 per cent of these young people reporting that the bullying took place at school, TAFE or university.
One-third (34 per cent), comprising 37.3 per cent of young women and 27.3 per cent of young men, said they had experienced bullying online and in social media.
A total of 29.9 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths said they had experienced bullying compared with 20.3 per cent of non-indigenous young people.
The respondents ranked coping with stress, school or study problems, and mental health as their top three concerns.
However, the majority of young people, 60.7 per cent, reported that overall, they were happy or very happy with their lives.
Nearly six in 10 (58.3 per cent) said they felt positive or very positive about their future while 12.2 per cent reported feeling negative or very negative.
“Young people are asking for change. We owe it to young people to not only listen but to also take action,” Mr Toomey writes.
“We must stand alongside them to advocate for the changes they want to see, provide opportunities to have a say, and better support them with the services they need as they tread their path to adulthood.”