Mental health is the top issue in Australia today according to a survey of Victorian young people and it is a concern that is reflected in Ballarat.
Mission Australia's Youth Survey found four in 10 Victorian young people identified mental health as the top issue in Australia in 2018, followed by alcohol and drugs, and equity and discrimination.
The 2019 Mission Australia Youth Survey is now open and the organisation is encouraging young people aged 15 to 19 in Ballarat to have their say.
This year's survey will ask new focus questions on bullying, disability and whether young people feel they have enough of a say about the issues that affect them.
The Ballarat Youth Council has identified mental health, climate change, connections with community and youth voices as priority issues in Ballarat.
My vision is to provide more of a voice for the youth of Ballarat.Charlotte Matthews, Ballarat Youth Council
Twenty one young people between the ages of 12 and 25 form the youth council that meets once a week.
Ballarat Youth Council member Charlotte Matthews said an event the youth council ran last week provided an opportunity to engage with young people in the community about their concerns and learn from their opinions.
"Climate change wasn't my strongest point but after that day I learnt so much about little things we can do for our community and for the world," she said.
The Ballarat Youth Council meets regularly with City of Ballarat councillors and the city's leadership team.
Ms Matthews said she hoped sharing their thoughts with councillors would help give insight into the perspective of young people.
"My vision is to provide more of a voice for the youth of Ballarat," she said.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Mission Australia Youth Survey recommended governments and organisations:
- Expand programs to support young people to re-engage with education and provide resources to prepare young people for future work
- Provide evidence-based universal mental health prevention and intervention programs in schools
- Increase Youth Allowance and rent assistance payments and boost investment in affordable and appropriate accommodation for young people
- Expand online and face-to-face services and resources for young people and their support networks including family and friends
Mission Australia's chief executive James Toomey welcomed the recognition of the need for greater support for youth mental health and suicide prevention in the federal budget.
"Mission Australia has been calling for increased investment in youth mental health supports as we continue to hear increasing concerns from young people relating to their mental health every year in our annual Youth Survey," he said.
City of Ballarat youth and diversity coordinator Craig Donaldson said mental health was consistently the number one priority for young people in Ballarat.
"Another theme is young people want to be the voice of now. Yes they are referred to as being 'the future', but they have strengths and abilities they can contribute now to the community, services, agencies and local government," he said.