ACT News

Many Canberra youths feel their career dreams are out of reach

Mount Stromlo High School student Rosie Cooper is confident her dream of one day being a primary teacher is within her reach.

Her friends and fellow year nine students Lucy Vandergugten, Callum Innis and Robert Wilson feel the same about their own career goals.

Rosie Cooper (front) 15, and her friends Robert Wilson, 15, Lucy Vandergugten, 15, and Callum Innis, 15, are positive ...
Rosie Cooper (front) 15, and her friends Robert Wilson, 15, Lucy Vandergugten, 15, and Callum Innis, 15, are positive about their futures and feel their career goals are attainable. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

But the optimistic bunch of 15-year-olds is bucking the trend, according to the country's largest annual poll of young people.

Most young Canberrans aged 15 to 19 rank career success as their top aspiration, but only around 50 per cent feel the goal is attainable, the national Mission Australia Youth Survey revealed.

Financial independence and "the great Aussie dream" of owning their own home were other key aspirations for Canberra's young people, but Mission Australia's state director for the ACT Ben Carblis said most believed the aims were out of their reach, meaning coping with stress was the greatest personal concern for one in every two survey respondents.

The stress of juggling the competing demands of teenage life was something Rosie and her friends could relate to, but supportive families and employers helped.

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"I do get stressed sometimes with time management between my homework and spending time with friends also I have a part-time job running kids' birthday parties," she said.

 "I just have to set priorities and then go from there."

The 169 young Canberrans surveyed were less focused on connecting with their family and the community and more focused on achieving financial independence and a good job, Mr Carblis said – a trait they shared with most young Australians. 

"That's clearly a challenge because we know that connecting with family and feeling a sense of community really supports good mental health and a healthy lifestyle," he said.

But in a positive result, young Canberrans were less concerned about alcohol and drugs, more likely to be planning to go to university and more likely to be involved in volunteering or student leadership than their peers in other jurisdictions.

Lucy said being involved in the community through organisations like Scouts was important for teenagers.

Volunteer referee and aspiring professional soccer player Callum agreed.

While Lucy said she sometimes felt pressured to seek a part-time job beyond babysitting, spending time with family and studying were priorities.

Mr Carblis said anxiety surrounding public service job cuts in the territory was an "unavoidable" stress for young people witnessing its effect on family and friends.

And with youth unemployment in the ACT at over 11 per cent with no sign of improvement, Mr Carblis said young people were anxious about achieving financial independence.

But for most the dream of owning their own home, like their parents, lingered.

While most young territorians felt it was achievable, Mr Carblis said it was becoming increasingly difficult.

"What we need to do is encourage the government to invest in more national housing policies to make housing affordable," he said.

Mission Australia will call on the government to invest more in programs to manage youth stress, help them achieve their aspirations of financial independence through their careers, and educate them about the benefits of connecting with family and the community, when the survey is launched at Parliament House on Monday.