Life Science ‘Thoughtful, progressive … misunderstood’: Research challenges youth stereotypes

‘Thoughtful, progressive … misunderstood’: Research challenges youth stereotypes

Young Australians are often unfairly maligned. Photo: Getty
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New research has challenged the popular notion that millennials and their Generation Z counterparts are lazy and apathetic.

A report titled Young Blood: The New Australia has shed light on the cultural identity of Australian youth with researchers surveying a cross-section of more than 2000 Australians aged 18 to 30 about their attitudes on topics ranging from technology to immigration and alcohol.

While politicians in Australia have used the arrival of refugees to stoke division, the poll found that fewer than one in 10 young Australians were worried about immigration.

“Immigration is a way for people to self-actualise a better life and I don’t agree that they should be seen as lesser people for that,” 26-year-old Adelaide resident John Santos said.

The research highlights the voices of a “thoughtful, progressive and often misunderstood” generation, said Gareth Davies, managing partner of brand experience agency Amplify, which commissioned the report.

“We firmly believe that this generation gets a hard time, from the legacy they’ve inherited to being described as ‘snowflakes’, ‘robots’ or ‘apathetic’,” Mr Davies said.

National identity

One in five young Australians believe the rest of the world sees them as racist, despite not attributing the label to themselves, the report found.

“I wouldn’t say the whole of Australia is racist, but I have met some racist people,” 19-year-old Darwin resident Bib Nellia said.

“We have to shape the younger generation to lead them to the right place.”

The survey respondents overwhelmingly rejected nationalist political figures, with only 6 per cent saying they aspired to be like One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, and only 5 per cent like US President Donald Trump.

The report also highlighted Australia’s “complex and fractured” history as a source of tension, particularly when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous Australians.

“Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders have systematically been subjugated by policies and frameworks that supported European-based cultural values and an English national language,” the report said.

“Understandably, many of the Aboriginal population do not identify (or identify less) with the Australian national identity, preferring their own ethnic identities.”

When it comes to national identity, the report described Australia as a “diverse collection of nationalities and cultures” coming together in an “ever-evolving pot of peoples”.

“What is being Australian? Especially given that we are amongst stolen land,” 25-year-old Sydneysider Elijah el Kahale said.

Role models

“For the most part, young people are liberal, progressive and globally minded,” the report said.

“This shows in the people they most admire; former US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern – both heroes of the left.”

Young people also had respect for activists who were upholding the values they believed in.

Role models included LGBTQ activist and actor Ruby Rose, Indigenous and LGBTQ suicide prevention activist Dameyon Bonson, and ‘Egg Boy’ Will Connolly – the teenager who shot to international fame after egging Senator Fraser Anning.

Nearly three-quarters of those polled said it was important to stand up for what you believe in, even if that opinion is unpopular or inconvenient.

Stereotypes v reality

Stereotypes and narratives about millennials and Generation Z proliferate, but the research showed that they don’t always line up.

Tech obsessed

Half of those surveyed said that older generations perceive them as being technology obsessed.

However, just one in 10 said they would consider tech to be one of their passions.

In fact, young people spend less money on tech than eating out, paying off debt, clothes, travel and hobbies, the research found.

“Tech is limitless, it’s exciting … and it’s built to keep you on there,” 29-year-old Rhys John Kaye from Brisbane said.

Reckless drinkers

While young people don’t identify themselves as reckless drinkers, they believe that other countries and their elders do, the report said.

Half of those surveyed said they drink to relax and have fun, but were embarrassed by the stereotype of being reckless drinkers.

Lazy or hard working?

“Unfortunately, one of the great global stereotypes of young people today is that they are lazy and entitled,” the report said.

“So it’s unsurprising that our audience assume that 51 per cent of older generations see them as just that”.

However, the survey found that young Australians respect hard work, hate cheaters, and are more likely to se themselves as “hard working and environmentally conscious”.

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