The head of Australia’s peak youth affairs body thinks the government “doesn’t care about young people” and warns that funding cuts from this year’s budget “will cause significant repercussions” for young Australians.
“The government have no interest in hearing or working with youth and those supporting them,” Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) national director Leo Fieldgrass told The New Daily.
Mr Fieldgrass was scathing of the Abbott government’s youth funding cuts, saying they are “short-sighted, counter-productive measures that will further alienate young people from the policy makers supposed to be acting in their interests”.
“The government has removed all mechanisms to involve young people and the youth sector in policy making,” Mr Fieldgrass said.
“Cuts mean more poor outcomes for young people and their families … youth workers will lose access to vital, proven information and resources.”
At risk are services to help rural and resource-poor youth workers stay up to date with latest research on problems like mental health, education and employment.
This is on top of severe cuts to youth advocacy bodies and ministerial representation in parliament from 2014.
By the 2017-18 financial year, the 2015 Budget estimates say there will be no funding for youth engagement, which in the 2014-15 financial year was just over $3 million.
This means in two weeks the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (ACYS) will close.
Eight staff will lose their jobs at ACYS, which has been Australia’s largest resource for direction on best practice youth work relating to education, mental health and employment for 30 years.
The AYAC said the cuts also mean the National Youth Awards will no longer be staged and in two years National Youth Week will end.
Representatives from the ACYS and AYAC told The New Daily they understand the cuts have come on the direction of Treasury and not the Department of Education and Training.
The New Daily contacted the Department of Education and Training but hasn’t received comment.
Youth sector not consulted
ACYS manager Lindsay Moffat told The New Daily: “We were rather shocked at the notice period and we’re disappointed to see we were cut”.
“Particularly without consulting the sector about the impact of those cuts,” Ms Moffat said. “The department acknowledged how useful our services had been and they’re disappointed it’s been cut.
“I don’t know whether the government understand the impact of this.”
The ACYS was given just six weeks’ notice to shut after the funding decision was made.
Ms Moffat said closing would mean rural and country youth workers will lose a resource they rely on for best practice.
Mr Fieldgrass said having no National Youth Awards or National Youth Week will end “the government’s only means of recognising and celebrating the contributions youth make everyday for this country”.
“It gives young people a real opportunity to take a leadership role … and for that week they be recognised.
“I don’t think for one week, that’s too much to ask.”
National Youth Awards finalist Kim Ho told The New Daily: “The awards foster a nationwide network of relations that will enrich our generation.
“The NYA doesn’t just celebrate youth achievement; it brings young people together to inspire and learn from each other.”
The cuts by the Abbott government aren’t its first for the youth sector.
In 2013 the Minister for Youth and its dedicated portfolio were slashed and soon after, the AYAC was defunded. The AYAC now operates one day a week.
In 2014 the Australian Youth Forum funding ended, while Australia is still one of few OECD countries without a national youth policy.
“These cuts demonstrate the need for a peak body representing youth interests,” Mr Fieldgrass said. “We need to be given the chance to hold the government to account.”