Imagine an Australia where young women and young men are actively engaged in their education, their families and communities, where they feel heard by policy makers and proudly participate in a vibrant Australian democracy.
That’s the vision of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC), the national peak body for the 4.3 million Australians aged 12-25, as well as the thousands of people and organisations who work to support them.
And yet, in 2014, AYAC was defunded by the Abbott Government and now only has enough resources to operate one day per week.
Today’s young Australians face significant challenges and are likely to be the first generation to experience lower standards of living than their parents.
Two in five high school aged people either aren’t attending school or say they feel they don’t belong there.
Of those who are in school, more than half feel there are barriers to achieving their goals when they leave school.
If you have a child in their teens or early twenties, they are now more likely to be unemployed than at any time since the mid-1990s.
WATCH: In 2013, AYAC partnered with OurSay to run interactive sessions on youth employment (post continues after video).
New technology and automations means that many of the jobs young people are studying or training for now may not even exist in a few years.
Spiralling house prices mean that even those with work will be less likely to be able to own their own home.
While young people are taking political action in new and different forms, they still report feeling disconnected from the traditional political process and ignored by politicians.
Worryingly, a 2013 Lowy Institute survey of Australian voters found less than half of under 30s preferred democracy over any other form of government.
Unhelpfully, the Australian Government last year removed all official mechanisms to hear from or engage with young people, cancelled the National Youth Awards and ended long-term funding for National Youth Week.
AYAC works with community and business sector leaders to develop ideas for social and economic policy that better supports young people into education and employment.
In the last year, AYAC’s expertise was drawn on by Prime Minister Turnbull and his cabinet Ministers, State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers, Australian Government departments, and a Senate Inquiry.
We’ve brought together 27 youth support organisations to develop national strategic guidance for government on key policy areas affecting young people, later this month they will participate in the Commonwealth Youth Development Index (YDI) 2016 Advisory Panel Committee in London.
In spite of our achievements, AYAC now faces a precarious future – without new funding, we will be unable to continue our activities past December this year.
AYAC have requested a meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull to discuss how the government will support, hear from and engage with young people if the youth peak is forced to close.
We will also lead a campaign ahead of the federal election to highlight the issues facing young people and how the government should best respond.
If AYAC does fold, young Australians will no longer have a national voice representing their best interests and connecting them to those making the big decisions that affect them.
Leo Fieldgrass is the AYAC National Director (@leofieldgrass).
If you would like to help AYAC work towards the vision of Australia where young people are valued, included and want to give back, please write to your local Federal MP or Senator and ask them to support a national voice for young people and the youth sector. Research shows that involving and supporting young people improves civic participation, health and well-being, social inclusion and economic prosperity. So if we invest in young people now, we all stand to benefit.