By Tom Hartley, edited for online by Matilda Butler.
A national survey has found Indigenous youth among the most resilient in the country and issues concerning them the most include alcohol, drugs and gambling.
More than 15,000 respondents participated in Mission Australia’s survey last year, of those were 640 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders between 15 to 19 years old.
Lead author of the report Dr Bronwyn Dalton says lack of motivation to find work is not the issue Indigenous youth face.
“Unfortunately though, that desire to find work was also accompanied by concern that they felt they were less able and had less options with regard to accessing university, or travelling, or even finding that job,” said Dr Dalton.
She says some findings are particularly interesting.
“Other issues that came through were that young Aboriginals were more likely to feel unsafe in their environment,” said Dr Dalton.
“One in five young Aboriginal people said they didn’t feel safe, where one in 11 non-Aboriginals (didn’t feel safe).
“They are also much more concerned compared to non-Aboriginals about issues relating to drugs, alcohol and gambling.”
Kody Pearson comes from a large Indigenous family and says the problems often stem from family history.
“Unfortunately, if that’s what their parents were doing before them, they find it very to get out and break the cycle,” said Mr Pearson.
“At the same time they need to be educated and told the importance of finding a job and working.”
He also says it is important for Indigenous youth to grasp every opportunity.
Aboriginal Employment Strategies chief executive officer Denny Lester says that is what they are trying to achieve.
“Our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do want to have access to employment,” said Mr Lester.
“Programs such as the School-based Traineeship, enables Indigenous to students to have an opportunity to study, complete their Year 12 journey as well as work and get paid for that.”
He says employers need to recognise an Indigenous candidate to be as valuable as everyone else.
“They’ve not just placed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into entry-level roles, but all roles,” he said.
“Services provided like Mission Australia and others, do great job towards challenging that stereotype that only Aborignal and Torres Strait Islander people can only fill entry-level roles. It’s not the case.”
Aboriginal Employment Strategy Brisbane business development operations manager Donna Jorgensen says “sadly” there is still evidence of racism among some Australian employers.
“I guess it just goes down to the colour of your skin and I guess it’s the same if you’re Chinese or African or whatever, but it seems to be reflective of a person’s culture I guess,” said Ms Jorgensen.
Mr Lester says work is still to be done.
“In some communities we still see third and fourth generational welfare, where welfare is the lifestyle of choice, not a world of work,” he said.
“So we’ve got to break down those barriers. We’ve got to gravitate towards what we can do and have aspiration to become greater than what we are.”
Visit the Mission Australia website to view the results of the 2012 Youth Survey.