Impacts of COVID-19 on Young People

Young people have been some of the hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19, so today Abigail shared the words and feelings of some young people to Parliament. 

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (22:38:30): COVID-19 has affected all of us to varying degrees, but its impacts have been particularly pronounced for young people. Many young people have had their education disrupted and a great many have lost their jobs or have had to put their future plans on hold indefinitely. Youth Action, the peak body for the 1.4 million young people in New South Wales and the services that support them, has been speaking with young people about how COVID-19 has affected their lives and how they want to be involved with the recovery. A major theme from these discussions is that young people do not feel like they are part of the conversation and they do not feel that they have been heard. I will share with members what these young people have told Youth Action in their own words about how COVID-19 has impacted them, and what they want from their Government. Firstly, they are concerned about the communication they have received in relation to COVID‑19. They said: I think they should have regularly been updating them and putting them in a way that young people could understand and follow [the rules] because it was just too inconsistent to keep track of … not knowing the situation made it more stressful.

They also said:

It was confusing with different information that teachers were saying and then what was in the media … the government kept changing what it said.

They also said:

Being left in the dark about what was happening … adults trying to shelter us from the situation but it made it worse.

On racism during COVID-19, one young person said:

During COVID there was a lot of racism, and that was really hurtful that at such a time of crisis, our society pulled out these thoughts. As we saw it unfolding, and all of those behaviours we saw … I think it was a good wake-up call that when our society is falling apart and we are seeing these behaviours from the community, we should really be reflecting on the morals and values we have. And moving forward we should learn from these kinds of situations.

On education, they said:

Be aware that students have been struggling but expectations are still really high.

They also said:

[Flexible online learning allowed me the] time to get on top of things, move forward, make sure everything was sorted, exercise a lot more, get all my homework done, and get on top of school work for the first time in—well anytime to be fair.

When it comes to the recovery, young people want us to know that they want to be listened to and to have a seat at the table. They said:

Young people are 20% of the population so one out of every five people at a table should be a young person.

They also said:

I'd like young people's voice in there in order to provide their own ideas too, because it's not only the adult community, it's also people under the age of 24 who have opinions or may have ideas that may work better …

They also said:

[Decision-makers need to] ensure that when something like this happens, that young people at a localised level are at the table.

In relation to jobs and the economy, they said:

The way it feels is like the onus is on the individual. If your industry doesn't exist anymore, you go and upskill yourself and you go and find a new job but I think that it should be more structural as well and they should be looking at ways to create pathways between different industries so that you don't put so much pressure on young people who don't have enough experience to compete with older candidates and don't have that many contacts yet.

They also said:

I lost my job as a travel consultant … and then on top of that, my mum lost her job as well so I suddenly found myself as having to support my family with the JobKeeper payment and suddenly I was kind of like the breadwinner which was strange because that's never happened before.

And finally, they spoke of their concerns about the future:

A lot of us during COVID, as year-12 students, it has made our lives really stressful and we are all doubtful and uncertain of the future … and I think that really impacted our mindset.

They also said:

Going forward it would be really good to see some open communication between decision makers and universities and TAFEs on how they can help students who have been detrimented by this whole situation.

They also said:

Right now would be a great time for Australia to shift from mining and the non-renewable side of things because we are already in such a poor situation right now both socially and economically that it is an opportunity for us to shift gears and change how we are running the country.

These are their words, their thoughts and their requests to us as parliamentarians. It has given me great pleasure to read them out here in this place tonight. I for one am listening very closely.

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