Canberra youth are excelling compared to young people interstate, but unemployment and illicit drug use dragged down some of the ACT's results on a new national youth development index.
Launched in Canberra on Friday, it brings together a host of national statistics from 2006 to 2015 on the lives of Australia's young people from several sources including the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
It revealed the ACT was the best performer compared to other states when it came to educational attainment, suicide rates, assaults, NAPLAN results, civic and political participation, and volunteering.
But the ACT had the highest ratio of youth unemployment compared to adult unemployment of all jurisdictions and the Territory's performance on the "health and wellbeing" measure, was also dragged down, chiefly on the back of higher rates of illicit drug use among Canberra's young.
The index showed about 27 per cent of ACT young people had recently used illicit drugs, higher than the results in New South Wales and Western Australia, but lower than the other states.
Nationally, the results also showed a significant "rural-urban divide" and a big gap between results for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians across the board.
Vice-president of the ACT Youth Coalition and 22-year-old Barnardos case worker Phil Moy said the index would become a key reference for both policymakers and those working with young people to see what was working and what did not.
"As far as the Canberra results go, I think it does reflect what I see every day working with young people, is they are constantly asking 'Is my voice being heard?'," he said.
"I think it also provides a valuable tool for people like me to be able to look easily at the statistics and find out if what I'm hearing from young people is a wider issue or not."
It is the first such effort among Commonwealth countries, based on a similar global index released last year, and Gemma Wood, a statistician from the Institute for Economics and Peace who worked on the project, hopes it will be taken up by other Commonwealth nations.
While the initial index was backed by the institute, Youth Action and Universities of Canberra and Victoria, Ms Wood said the index did not yet have an institutional home and she hoped a federal government department or non-government organisation might be able to make room for it in their agenda.
The full results can be found at: www.youthdevelopmentindex.org
Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times
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