Reports, articles, and our own experiences tell us that as young people, we are in a tough position – and it’s only getting worse.
One of the main issues we face is the ongoing jobs crisis. Nearly one in three school leavers are not in full-time work or study, with youth unemployment and underemployment sitting at close to 30 per cent.
But one issue which is really in need of close consideration is the constant failure of our government to have our voices be heard.
“Half the world is dying of starvation and the other half is dying of boredom.”
This expression, one of many popularised during the protests of the 1960s, encapsulates a feeling of alienation that many young people today can still relate to.
What we see as a product of this alienation, is young people who are fighting back a system which intrinsically oppresses minorities.
Our reality today is that our future is looking bleak. The rapid growth of casualization, a trend that disproportionately affects young people, means that people today live in a constant state of uncertainty.
Young people in particular are in the sights of policies that seek to quarantine welfare and keep people off the dole as long as possible.
Young women are still targets of patriarchy and campaigns in modern media which continue to dehumanise and disempower them. They still on average, earn less than their male counterparts in the workforce.
Beyond the acts of racism and sexism, we witness the horrific reality of domestic violence and the extreme lengths of terrorism.
Young people are lacking proper support to help them cope with these changes and the growing war against the human spirit, destroying our self-esteem and our hope for a good future.
When news broke of a young white Australian male known then as the “White Jihadi” and later revealed to be 18-year old Melbourne ‘straight-A student’ Jake Bilardi fronting an ISIS propaganda image; we couldn’t help but ask why?
As his identity and motives were confirmed, people from around the world began questioning how a promising young person ended up on the path to fighting with the world’s deadliest cult which would later end in his death.
Labor citizenship and multiculturalism spokeswoman Michelle Rowland responded to this news by saying, “We need to look at what is driving young people to take this path. I think we need to look at issues of inclusion”.
Jake, a victim of reported bullying and exclusion in his community, may be an extreme example, but it begs us to question where was his support system when he blatantly so needed it.
Tony Abbott described news of Bilardi’s apparent death as an “absolutely horrific situation’’. “It’s very, very important that we do everything we can to try to safeguard our young people against the lure of this shocking, alien and extreme ideology,” he said.
Support for young people is crucial. As a society, instead of “hate-shaming” these young people such as Jake, we need to establish why or what we aren’t offering our youth which is forcing them to seek out meaning and worth elsewhere.
As youth are highly impressionable as well as highly politically-aware, those who are at risk of falling under the system have nowhere to go or no one to turn to. Young people are growing more despondent as job opportunities are ceasing to exist, higher costs of education and living are forcing many into poverty and homelessness, and a lack of support or feeling of being heard by older generations and those in authority is leading young people into a perpetual state of frustration and despair.
The treatment of young people can be understood as an example of what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called symbolic violence. The omission of young people is an example of unequal age relations that are just taken for granted. Just look at the contempt often directed towards young people in the media. Just as gender inequality and community attitudes towards women are recognised as key contributors to family violence, ageism is a key factor in young people’s experience of such violence.
Young people are feeling dissatisfied and desperate, and are in need of something to make them feel that they have a voice and that their voice and actions are being heard and are making a difference. If we keep supressing young people as a nation and maintain this age-based prejudice, more and more young people will feel they have nowhere to go and are at risk of going down the wrong paths.