National Youth Week in New South Wales will be held from 10-18 April. This annual celebration provides the opportunity to reflect on the contributions, achievements and positive stories of young people, as well as the challenges they face.
The week targets the 12 to 25 year age group with the week aiming to encourage young people to share ideas, attend live events, have their voices heard on issues of concern to them, showcase their talents, celebrate their contribution to the community and have fun.
Young people from all over the country – from high schools, universities and TAFE’s – will be organising many celebrations to be noticed and appreciated.
Those attending the Royal Easter Show will get a taste of the festivities scheduled during April with a huge display including music, interactive dance troupes, stalls and music from the popular bands of today.
During National Youth Week, on Wednesday April 14 attention will turn to the serious topic of youth homelessness.
The 2010 Youth Homelessness Matters Day will commence a campaign to raise public awareness of youth homelessness, and to celebrate the resilience of young people.
The day will mark the commencement of a ten year countdown to reduce the number of people who could end up homeless, is a timely reminder that many of our youth have no fixed address, and asks the question of all young people … “Will you be homeless in 2020?”
The day has been instigated because youth workers were unhappy with the lack of public awareness about young people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The awareness campaign during Youth Week they believe will help young and old connect to the issues and needs, and why the number of young homeless people is growing.
Youth Homelessness does not just mean sleeping rough on the streets.
There are three different types of homelessness used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The first classification is Primary homelessness. These are our youth without a roof over their head and found living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings or using cars or trains as temporary shelter.
The second is Secondary homelessness, who are people who frequently move from one type of shelter to another, including people living in homeless services, hostels, people staying with other households who have no home of their own, and people staying in boarding houses for 12 weeks or less.
The final classification is Tertiary homelessness, referring to our youth who live in boarding houses on a medium to long term basis of more than 13 weeks, and live in accommodation that does not have self-contained facilities (such as not having their own bathroom or kitchen), and those who do not have the security provided by a lease.
Youth homelessness is growing, according to local agencies, who say there has been an increase in our youth looking for a home in the Great Lakes and Manning Valley.
“Many have family problems and need a place to sort their lives out,” a local youth welfare worker said.
The numbers are growing, but thankfully, at the moment we can manage.
In the future, as society deals with more pressure, we expect numbers will treble in the next three to five years.”
A local church agency reports it is concerned about the increase in assistance sought, which is doubling this year.
“For whatever reason they come to us we have to help them – if we don’t then they will have nowhere to go.
Currently we have found there is shortage of places in the Manning Valley and Great Lakes to assist these people on a temporary basis.”
April 14 is designed for everyone to stop and imagine for a moment that your home and means of support no longer exist, and you are left to support yourself in an often hostile environment.
Every night across Australia, 100,000 people are homeless. Nearly half of these are under the age of 25. The Mid North Coast area has up to 175 young people reported to be homeless every night of the week.
Young people and children have become homeless for a variety of reasons, with the majority of reasons being completely out of their control.
These include domestic violence, drug and alcohol use, financial hardship, family break-up, and abuse.
Government agencies support accommodation assistance programs with crisis accommodation services, but unfortunately this capacity can only support about 15 percent of these young people.
This topic is important and cannot be ignored during the 22nd National Youth Week in New South Wales, however we also must reflect and celebrate on the outstanding ability of our future adults.
There will be more than 200,000 young people, 900 events and activities occurring, with many Councils across NSW involved to highlight the unique skills, achievements and strengths that young people bring to their communities.
While the week will have many themes, one important element will be ‘The Arrive Alive’ Youth Road Safety program which will promote messages to improve road safety among young people in NSW. Young people aged between 17 and 25 years are more than twice as likely as any other road user to be killed or injured on NSW roads. Every year in NSW over 100 young people are killed in motor vehicle accidents and more than 7,000 are injured.
Another issue the youth will address is depression, which is a growing trend, with an education campaign by Beyond Blue assisting in workshops and seminars.
So while the week will be a celebration, it will also address the issues our youth face in the future.
There will time to admire the achievements of our youth, have plenty of fun, and to reflect on some issues. My recommendation is to join in and salute our youth.
Story by Peter Lyne.