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nurturing connections to community, culture and the natural environment
All young people should get to grow up in surroundings which are nurturing and promote a strong sense of belonging and growth.
This includes deep connections to culture, family and the wider community, as well as creative expression and a healthy natural environment.
We know these things matter to young people. For example, when asked about the things they value highly, 83.6% of young Victorians aged 15-19 cite their friendships and 82.9% cite their family relationships. In the past year, 54.7% of young Victorians got involved in arts, music or cultural activities, and a quarter got involved in environmental groups or activities.
When young people are surrounded by loving family life and connections to other people, it helps them to develop good self-esteem and pro-social behaviours. A positive sense of culture and identity is also important, especially for Aboriginal young people and young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Meanwhile, young people enjoy better physical and mental health and social connections if they have access to safe, beautiful green spaces, parks and playgrounds.
However, not all young people get to enjoy these things. For example, nearly 30% of young Victorians don't agree they have a trusted adult in their lives. Many Aboriginal Victorians still don’t get the opportunity to speak an Aboriginal language or take part in cultural life. Some young people don’t have good access to natural outdoor spaces, especially young people with disability.
Victoria has some excellent programs designed to connect young people to community and culture and encourage young people’s creative and artistic life. For example, high quality mentoring programs help young people to reach their potential by bringing them together with caring adults in a structured, safe relationship, where they can access guidance, support and positive role modelling. Meanwhile, programs like FReeZA create opportunities for young artists, help young people to build skills in event planning, and get young people together in musical and cultural spaces that are affordable and drug-free.
However, many of these interventions are funded on a short-term basis and struggle to meet the full needs of their communities. They should be resourced in a way which allows them the flexibility to address issues like geographical isolation and disability access, and continue to build strengths in planning, governance, support for volunteers, and evaluation.
Meanwhile, if young people are to grow up in healthy natural environments, we must address broader threats of climate change and environmental degradation. These issues impact on young people disproportionately; young people are very aware that it is their generation (and future ones) which will be most affected. Many young people see strong benefits – environmental, economic and social – to learning about climate science and building clean energy movements at local, national and international levels.