After the first week of the 47th Parliament, it feels as though it is indeed time for a national reset.
The national mood has arguably shifted - from anxiety to something more hopeful. We must seize this moment. Australia faces major problems that can no longer be adequately addressed by the approach that has directed national policy since the reform era of the 1980s and 1990s.
While that era of economic modernisation delivered many positive results, a renewal is now needed.
Indeed COVID-19 has revealed problems simmering beneath the surface, which must now be addressed: falling productivity, stagnant wages, rising inequality, creaking public services.
Most of all, the pandemic has highlighted the need to improve Australia's levels of trust and social cohesion, and to build a better future for children and young people.
During the past six months, a taskforce we have led - bringing together leaders from business, the union movement, civil society and academia - have been investigating the prospects for such national rebuilding.
Drawing upon the consultations we have had with Australians from different walks of life, we believe the country now requires what we call "the Great Australian Renovation".
By this we mean that policy directions can no longer be based on market-based economic principles to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Instead, alongside economics, proper weight needs to be given to social cohesion, trust and wellbeing. Things cannot go back to the way they were prior to COVID-19. We need a different approach. One that repairs the social disruption caused by aggressive containment responses the pandemic, and that restores public trust in science, leadership and our public institutions.
We could start by doing more to protect and promote the best interests of children and young people.
The vast majority of children and young people, fortunately, have not been made seriously ill by COVID-19.
This picture, though, becomes far less positive when social, emotional and other physical health measures are considered. According to one survey, a quarter of 16 to 24-year-old Australians polled thought about suicide in the past two years, 82 per cent reported experiencing mental health issues, and 15 percent attempted self-harm.
The young have also suffered disproportionately in less easily quantified ways. Primary, secondary and tertiary students alike were denied the benefits of face-to-face teaching; many fell behind as teachers were unable to recognise and address critical learning challenges.
Children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were most heavily affected.
The pandemic's effects on the wellbeing of the young have been profound. Yet they have not received the attention they should have.
Children and young people have been the forgotten heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They made enormous sacrifices to keep their parents, grandparents and other older Australians out of harm. However, their lack of a public voice meant their needs were often placed second to those of adults. They have been robbed of life experiences and development opportunities - with potentially long-term costs to their welfare.
This must not be allowed to happen again. The sacrifices of our young people must be repaid - by giving them a louder public voice, including them in our nation's deliberations, and directing greater investment and resources towards their needs. Australia cannot be renovated to create a better future without the active involvement of the young. It is time for generational justice.
Which is why our taskforce has recommended a number of steps government can take to set things right.
Australia should create a Youth Fund, similar to the Future Fund, which will have the aim of investing strategically in our children and young people. The fund should not replace but rather supplement existing children and youth programs. It could also support the implementation of the National Children's Mental Health Strategy.
Society should give children and young people a stronger say. To prevent the interests of children and young people being placed second to those of adults, Australia should create an independent national youth body as a source of advice to our national leaders.
We note the new government's election platform included a similar commitment and we urge the government to make it a national priority.
In addition, the experience of Australia's schools during the pandemic is particularly important to consider.
A full examination of the epidemiological evidence is required to determine whether the policy of school closures was effective or necessary to contain the pandemic. Because schools play such a vital role in children and young people's lives and in our society generally, we should operate on the principle that they should be the last institutions to close and the first to re-open.
These are some of the issues that should be part of a renewed national conversation.
It has often been said that in the past, children and the young should be seen and not heard. Well, for the past two-and-a-half years, they have perhaps been both unseen and unheard. But if our society is to be rebuilt, that must now change.
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