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Freedom from violence, bullying and discrimination
Young Victorians identify equity and discrimination (alongside mental health) as the most important issue facing Australia today.
When asked about their personal concerns, 14.7% of young Victorians raise concerns about their personal safety, 13.4% mention bullying or emotional abuse, and 11% mention discrimination. Young women are more concerned about these issues than their male peers, and Aboriginal young people are more concerned about them than the general population.
Family violence poses a particular threat to young people. The Royal Commission into Family Violence found that young people who had experienced family violence often showed great resilience and optimism, but needed better support. Family violence increases a young person’s risk of poor mental health, disrupted education, risk-taking and homelessness, and many services do not have the expertise to respond appropriately.
By working with young people, we can transform the attitudes and conditions which give rise to violence. The Royal Commission reflected that the need to teach young people about healthy relationships was one of the most consistent messages they received from communities right across Victoria. When Respectful Relationships Education was piloted in 19 schools, the results were very positive. Students showed stronger understanding of gender-based violence and inequality, improved classroom behaviours, and more respectful school cultures.
Action is also needed to address the broader issue of male violence against women. One in four Australian women experience intimate partner violence, and one woman is killed in Australia by a partner or ex-partner almost every week. Young people are more likely than their elders to condone or misunderstand gender-based violence, and young women are more vulnerable to male violence than older women.
Interventions should actively engage young people, notably young women with disability and Aboriginal young women, who are targeted at higher rates than the general population. Interventions are needed in all the spaces where gender-based harassment and abuse occurs. For example, only 15% of young Victorian women feel safe walking at night, 58% of young Australian women have been sent unwanted sexual material online, and sexual harassment of young women in the workplace is common.
It is equally important to build a Victoria free of racism. Young Australians are more accepting of multiculturalism than previous generations, and 80% of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds report a strong sense of belonging in Australia. The majority of newly-arrived young people feel they’ve settled in well and are confident they can achieve their goals. However, 49% of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds have experienced discrimination in the past year, and one in four newly arrived people do not feel that people from their cultural backgrounds are valued here. Living with racism is harmful to young people’s mental health, and can keep them from enjoying the good things in life, like gainful employment and community connections.
It’s also important to address young people’s safety in the workplace. One in two young Victorians have experienced workplace bullying or harassment. They rarely take action, as they tend to lack the skills and confidence, and fear retaliation.