9. every young person needs
Access to high quality services and transport
“If I could send my youth worker a message now, I'd like to say: Thank you for your patience, generosity and ability to connect with local community networks to help establish some support and routine.”
– Former youth work client
"Those in rural and remote areas especially have trouble with transport, even in their own shires. Because of this, they are less likely to socialise with new and different people and opportunities for work or education can be disadvantaged."
– Young person from rural/regional Victoria
All young people should have supports in place to help them become independent.
Young people want this support from adults who understand them and are easy to connect with.
Unfortunately, nearly 30% of young Victorians don’t agree that they have a trusted adult in their lives. Many communities face challenges to support their young people, especially in rural communities, due to very limited resources and the costs of distance and outreach. Meanwhile, interface council areas and regional centres must meet the needs of large young populations who face higher than average levels of disadvantage.
Youth workers are unique professionals who build trust and understanding between young people, their families and communities. Investing in youth work and youth support services helps us build great neighbourhoods for everyone.
Young people can’t access support services and opportunities unless they have proper transport. Recently, there has been substantial, welcome investment in Victoria’s public transport, but ongoing work is needed. For example, 31.5% of Victorians with a disability have difficulty using public transport, and 13.9% cannot use any public transport. Only 57% of people in Melbourne’s interface suburbs live near public transport, and 61% of unemployed young Australians have no driver’s license.
Victoria has youth work strategies in place to improve outcomes for children and young people, especially those facing serious disadvantage.
First steps by 2020
Commit to develop a state-wide, cross-sector youth work strategy, designed in collaboration with young people, local governments, Victoria Police and youth, health and community services.
It should have a strong 'geographical lens', ensuring that planning, delivery and evaluation of interventions addresses the needs of different communities, including those in rural, interface and regional areas, as well as inner metropolitan areas with 'pockets' of poverty.
Priorities should include:
Employing new youth workers for 'high need' locations, based on needs-analyses, priority issues and differing geographical costs of service delivery.
A funding pool for rural councils to employ youth workers, ensuring at least one appropriately trained youth worker operates in each Victorian shire.
Increased access to specialist youth workers in the fields of mental health, homelessness, and alcohol and other drugs, for communities experiencing high levels of need and barriers to service access. These communities should include outer metropolitan 'growth' areas and rural and regional areas.
Appropriately trained youth workers beginning to operate from the launch sites of Victoria’s Support and Safety Hubs, as part of the gradual development of the Hub model.
Youth workers in schools and flexible learning providers, working within multidisciplinary wellbeing teams to help strengthen young people’s mental health and wellbeing, prevent school disengagement, address behaviours of concern, and connect students and families with support services. There should be a focus on communities with high levels of need per head of population, including rural schools which have identified the need for a youth work presence.
Develop a policy framework for children in the 'middle years', generally defined as 8-12 years old. This should include new program development, workforce skills development, and targeted funding for services. Undertake new research into the needs of this cohort and support partnerships between early years, family services, youth and research sectors. This work must recognise the needs and strengths of different communities, including rural, regional and interface areas, and the relevance of issues like population growth, transport barriers and cultural diversity. Develop opportunities for children in this age group to have a meaningful voice say in issues affecting them, including by supporting VicSRC to increase its engagement with primary school students.
Our youth support workforce fully reflects the diversity of our Victorian community.
First steps by 2020
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.
Work with universities to launch a new Bachelor-level scholarship program for 25 youth work students over four years from priority communities. Base the funding on universities’ current comparative equity scholarships. Work with TAFEs to support students transition from diploma-level study into the new program.
Fund paid internship, mentoring and entry-level employment opportunities for early-career youth workers from priority communities.
State Government youth support interventions are always informed by current data, local expertise and properly resourced.
First steps by 2020
Commit to develop benchmarks for minimum levels of youth service delivery, including in interface, rural and regional communities. This should cost a ratio of youth support workers and their relevant infrastructure to young people. It should make explicit the real costs of outreach to isolated communities, employment of appropriately qualified staff, relationship- and partnership-building, and after-hours service delivery. Undertake to respond with appropriate resourcing. In the past, detailed modelling defined adequate levels of staff and infrastructure for youth services in interface council areas – see the Staying Connected report (2006) and Australian Social & Recreation Research (2008).
Work with local government youth services to develop regular, strategic mechanisms to share best practice and data, work collaboratively across municipalities, and use their expertise to inform Victorian Government policy and program development. YACVic is currently piloting such a model with local government youth services in Melbourne’s western suburbs, which we hope to roll out across the state.
Commit to moving away from short-term, competitive tendering for youth service delivery, and towards longer-term, partnership-based funding, informed by local expertise and backed by bipartisan support.
Commit stronger resourcing for prevention, in areas including family violence, respectful relationships, mental health, housing, and community resilience.
Fund community service employers to keep pace with wage and cost increases, with a properly costed pricing and indexation framework that maintains fair funding levels, as recommended by VCOSS.
All young Victorians can access good, reliable transport where they live.
First steps by 2020
Strengthen public transport in rural and regional Victoria, to improve young people’s access to training, employment, services and community life.
Strengthen public transport in Melbourne’s interface council areas, with an emphasis on running more frequent and direct bus services to areas without rail access.
Provide safe, realistic and appealing alternatives to car travel in the form of high level of service walking, bicycle paths and public transport networks between suburban hubs, as well as in and out of city centres, to provide opportunities for independent travel and support delayed license-holding among young people, as recommended by Victoria Walks and YACVic.
Provide free public transport to young people up to 18 years of age if their parent or guardian has a Centrelink income or health care card, to strengthen students’ attendance at school and extra-curricular activities, and to young people who are experiencing family violence, as recommended by VCOSS and WEstjustice.
Make Victoria’s public transport systems and infrastructure fully accessible and continue to fund and support the Students with Disabilities Transport Program, as recommended by Stronger Schools.
Highlight the cost, convenience, health, environmental and community benefits of walking for transport, where feasible, and establish walking-friendly communities that provide safe access by walking to education, work, shops, services, entertainment, public transport, and interesting, pleasant and relaxing parks and green open spaces, as recommended by Victoria Walks and YACVic.
Work with schools and youth support services to continuously collect data about the transport needs of young people, to inform a new approach to mobility for young Victorians, focused on travel to and from education and the prevention of transport poverty, as recommended by WEstjustice.
All young Victorians have the right support to get a driver’s license, if they want one.
First Steps By 2020
Maintain and strengthen the L2P program, which supports young people who don’t have access to a car or a supervising driver to get ready for their probationary license through 120 hours’ practice with a driver-mentor. L2P programs are highly valued, but many are struggling to meet the need. Future approaches might involve: increased per-head funding, a 'rural loading' to cover the higher delivery costs in rural and regional areas, core funding to cover host organisations’ costs, and new resourcing to help L2P programs become disability-competent and culturally-competent.
Launch a new program in the style of L2P for young people aged 21-25 who cannot access a vehicle or driving supervision, and who live in communities with high levels of unemployment, isolation and car dependence.
How you can take action
Ask your local candidates these questions in the lead up to the 2018 state election:
1. Would they support a state-wide plan to improve the lives of young people at risk of disadvantage – with funding attached to provide new youth workers to communities in need?
2. Would they support a new initiative to recruit, train and employ youth workers from diverse cultural communities, and from rural Victoria?
3. What are their priorities for improving Victoria’s public transport system?
4. Will they pledge to continue and strengthen funding to the popular L2P program, to help young people at risk of disadvantage get a driving license?
5. Would they support making public transport free for school students if their parent or guardian has a health care card, or if the student is dealing with homelessness or family violence?