In the last opinion piece I wrote for this paper I stated that our young people are the most vulnerable Tasmanians to the economic and social impacts of this coronavirus pandemic.
Sadly, developments in recent weeks only confirm this. Young Australians have been smashed by this coronavirus crisis.
Nearly four in 10 young Australians now don't have a job or enough work. Youth unemployment is skyrocketing and so are concerns over youth mental health and suicide.
If we don't offer every young person hope for the future, a decent job, secure work, and a place to study, we risk creating a lost generation. If we don't lay out a clear and simple plan for economic recovery that helps our youth by also tackling our climate emergency, the cost will be very, very high.
The Greens have this week announced a recovery plan that does just this. Called the Next Gen Guarantee, this plan would see a free place at university or TAFE, or an apprenticeship or traineeship, to get young people back on track and pursuing their careers; a guaranteed income that young people can actually live off, so they can afford rent and food; and a guaranteed job, working on nation-building programs in industries that will tackle the climate emergency and build a more creative, and caring society.
2010 Australian of the Year, and outspoken advocate for youth mental health, Professor Patrick McGorry, said recently that unless drastic action is taken soon, suicide rates around the nation are likely to overshadow coronavirus deaths.
The acute growing mental health crisis amongst our young was also recognised by Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck last week in the Senate. He outlined that BeyondBlue has worryingly seen a 60 per cent increase in outreach over recent weeks from young people struggling with the mental health aspects of coronavirus isolation.
Research and modelling from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre also predicted that if unemployment doubles and reaches 11 per cent, which is looking increasingly likely, we could see a 25 per cent increase in suicides.
It's worth pointing out that even prior to the coronavirus, mental health was by far the biggest health issue facing young Australians under 25. Professor McGorry and his institute, Orygen, are consistently saying that it's one of our nation's biggest health problems; indeed it's a national crisis. Some of the underlying causes are a rise in anxiety, financial stress, insecure work and a loss of hope in the future, especially while facing down a threat like our climate crisis.
I argued recently that older Australians can play a major role in reversing such trends, by making a pact with Millennials to fight the great crises and threats faced by our younger generations. This includes baby boomers voting for the change they want to see in our world.
This is only fair considering the price young people are now paying to protect the health of mostly older Australians. While there has been a predictable stream of personal and political letters to The Examiner attacking this suggested 'pact,' I'm confident most older Tasmanians deeply love their grandkids and won't want to leave such a terrible legacy to younger generations.
The Greens' Invest to Recover plan lays out the steps that are needed to renew the economy by putting the community ahead of the big corporations: a government-backed Jobs and Income guarantee to help create hundreds of thousands of jobs and ensure everyone has an income they can live on, massive government investment in health, education, manufacturing and renewable infrastructure - the building blocks of a fair, clean economy - and for young people, our Next Gen Guarantee.
As part of a Green New Deal it will restart an economy already hit by inequality and a climate crisis, and provide a blueprint to build a fairer and more sustainable future for us all, especially our young. That's something you can confidently vote for.
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Peter Whish-Wilson, Greens senator
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