Hospitality student Rabi Celestina, 20, says it would take a miracle to forget the difficulties of 2020. She has not been able to find work due to the pandemic, and felt anxious when she returned to in-person TAFE classes.
But like many young Canberrans, Ms Celestina remains optimistic.
"I'm just glad that here in Australia the situation isn't as bad and the government is just doing the best it can to make sure people are safe," she said.
The resilient attitude of youth in the face of adversity was highlighted in Mission Australia's Youth Survey Report 2020. Mission Australia surveyed 25,800 young Australians aged 15 to 19, including 1230 young people from the ACT. While youth are concerned about equity and discrimination, COVID-19 and the environment, young Canberrans are generally happy, optimistic and confident. The survey found 60.9 per cent of respondents were happy with their lives; 57.2 said they felt positive about the future and 51.8 per cent said they were confident they'd reach their goals in work, study and personal relationships.
Yet 23.4 per cent of ACT respondents said they've been treated unfairly, and 53.2 per cent of respondents said they'd witnessed someone being treated unfairly over the last year. The biggest causes of unfair treatment were gender (46 per cent), race or cultural background (29.8 per cent) and mental health (24.6 per cent).
Ms Celestina said while she hadn't faced discrimination in Australia, she felt heartened by the passion of socially conscious young people involved in anti-racist activism, including the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I feel like this generation is more motivated to make a change," she said.
"[Youth] really feel the urge to make a difference and make a better Australia for everyone no matter what their race is."
Mission Australia's ACT regional leader, Daniel Strickland, said as the survey was conducted during April to August, grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter may have boosted awareness of racial discrimination.
"This generation are the ones who can hopefully change that," he said.
Mr Strickland believes that COVID-19 and its impact on work, education, and mental health will remain a concern for young people well into 2021.
While the environment fell from the first to the third concern from 2019 to 2020, Ms Celestina, who moved to Canberra in late 2019, is particularly concerned about the environment.
"I remember coming last year when it was the time of the bushfires - It was literally the worst thing I've experienced in a long time," she said.
Mr Strickland said young people are adapting to changes and a new way of life, and he had witnessed those changes in his own kids. "[Youth] are strong and they've gone through something that their parents and grandparents haven't had to deal with," he said.
"I commend the young people - and what a story they've got to tell their kids and grandkids."