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Teen survey reveals depth of discrimination

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are almost twice as likely to experience discrimination on the basis of their race or culture than other Australian teenagers, according to the results of a national study.

Nearly 55 percent of Indigenous teenagers aged 15 to 19 years who were involved in Mission Australia’s Youth Survey for 2016 said they had experienced race discrimination compared to 28.3 percent of other teenagers.

They were also more likely to experience unfair treatment or discrimination on the basis of mental health, age, physical health or ability, sexuality, religion and for other reasons.

The survey also found that half of all the young people involved — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — had witnessed someone else being unfairly treated or discriminated against in the past year.

Race and cultural discrimination were nominated as the cause of 57.5 percent of incidents.

Mission Australia chief executive officer Catherine Yeomans said Australia needed to address the numbers of young people experiencing and witnessing all forms of discrimination.

“These levels are simply unacceptable and we must ask ourselves what we can all do to change these results,” she said.

“Political and social leadership is required to help change some of those pervasive attitudes.

“We have to challenge stereotypes and explicit discrimination when we see it. And this needs to be addressed by governments, businesses, sports and other institutions as well as in the media and at schools.”

The report said studies had shown discrimination could have a negative impact on mental health, with effects including increased psychological distress, depression and anxiety.

Nearly 22,000 teenagers nationwide were involved in the study, which provides a snap shot of Australian youth.

Nearly 1300 of the respondents were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Of those, 3.7 percent reported speaking an Indigenous language at home. Just over nine percent reported they had a disability.

The report also shed light on the hopes and challenges faced by Indigenous teenagers.

The percentage of Indigenous youths studying full time (84.5 percent) was lower than in the general population (95.3 percent).

Of those who were still at school, 92.8 percent of Indigenous students said they planned to finish Year 12 compared to 97 percent for non-Indigenous students.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males were less likely to plan to finish Year 12 — almost 10 percent said they would not continue with their schooling compared to 3.9 percent of female students.

Three in 10 Indigenous youths, or 29.6 percent, indicated they were currently doing a vocational education and training course or had previously done one compared to 19.3 percent of non-Indigenous respondents.

Less than half (45.8 percent) of Indigenous students planned to go on to tertiary studies compared to 70.3 percent of non-Indigenous students. Of those Indigenous students planning to go to university, a greater proportion were female.

Higher proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers indicated they planned to get a job (40.3 percent compared to 32.4 percent of non-Indigenous youths); to get an apprenticeship (17.7 percent compared to 8.3 percent); and to go to TAFE or college (16.5 percent compared to 12.3 percent).

Males were more likely than females to have their sights set on getting work or an apprenticeship.

A small group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers  (1.8 percent) said they felt no choices were available to them after they left school.

The top three influences on career choices were parents, other family members and the internet. Family relationships, friendships and physical and mental health were the things most Indigenous young people valued along with school or study satisfaction and getting a job.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous teenagers identified the same top three issues for Australia today — alcohol and drugs, equity and discrimination and mental health.

The study was released on Tuesday (December 6).

Wendy Caccetta

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