This landmark report by the ICfE’s Youth Council was released by Gareth Ward on 20 December 2021.
The report is significant given the continuing prevalence of the COVID-19 variant and its ongoing impacts on youth in the Illawarra.
The Youth Council was formed in July 2021 to develop the leadership capacity of youth from diverse backgrounds in the Illawarra.
The 6 Council Members collectively researched and discussed youth issues in the Illawarra and decided to focus on youth experiences of COVID-19 as their project. They worked diligently through the following 5 stages of this Project:
Phase 1 Survey Design
To create, finalise and launch an online survey to explore what the issues of concern are to youth in the Illawarra, aged 18-26 years old, and gain engagement from youth from all backgrounds. Phase 1 of the Project was completed on 20 August 2021. See the Youth Survey
Phase 2 Community and Youth Engagement
To promote the Youth Survey to organisations, community networks and youth and get support from key stakeholders including political leaders
Phase 3 Data Analysis
Analysis of the data from the Youth Survey after it closed on 27 September 2021.
Phase 4 Reporting
Report writing featuring the findings, a discussion of the findings and recommendations for decision-makers
Phase 5 Advocacy for Youth
Publishing the Report online and distributing it to key decision-makers, organisations and youth, and advocating for youth as determined by the findings of the Report
For Phase 3 and 4, data analysis and Report writing, Alvin Chung was Project Managers and Team Leaders were Tristan James and Ben Healey.
It is commendable that 134 youth across the Illawarra responded to their online Survey at such a critical period during the second wave of COVID-19 with the Delta strain causing further havoc on so many fronts for youth.
The critical need for mental health servicing and information is loud and clear in the Council’s findings as presented in their Report. Although the Council’s findings relate to the impacts of the second wave of the COVID-19 variant and its more potent Delta strain in 2021, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, it is important that the Youth Council’s seven recommendations in this Report are taken seriously by government and non-government organisations, policy and decision makers to improve how they engage and assist youth as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
The Youth Council is to be commended for developing their leadership capacity to shape their individual and collective voice as regional youth leaders in the Illawarra, and for contributing the evidence for change to benefit Illawarra’s youth.
The support they have received from regional and political leaders, including Member for Kiama, The Hon Gareth Ward MP, The Hon Fiona Phillips MP, The Hon Sharon Bird MP and Debra Murphy, CEO of RDA Illawarra, as well as a number of government and non-government organisations in the Illawarra is tremendously appreciated as Members of the Council have learned about collaborating to build momentum for youth voices to be heard, and how youth leadership can constructively advocate for change.
It has been my privilege to develop the leadership capacity of the Youth Council Members through the development and finalisation of their Youth Survey and Report to benefit them and youth in the Illawarra.
Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey
Director, Illawarra Centre for Enablement (ICfE)
Statements of Endorsement
Debra Murphy, CEO Regional Development Australia, (RDA Illawarra)
ICfE Ambassador-in-Chief, Dr Michael Barbato
“I have read your report and wish to congratulate the team on the initiative shown, the methodology adopted and the way you have collaborated to present the findings. It’s striking and disturbing to read the effects of Covid on mental health and that 93% of the respondents felt they had little if any control of their life. I suspect these findings are not confined to the youth of the Illawarra. Even within our extended family I note similar effects particularly with regards mental health issues and the adverse effect Covid is having on study and psychosocial health. Having said that, it is heartening to note the resilience displayed by the respondents and how friends and hobbies feature highly amongst coping strategies.
For me, the most pleasing aspect of the study is that your team has taken the early initiative. There is much to be learnt at all levels from the experience of Covid. Much has been written about the effects on the older generation. Your work has highlighted the vulnerability of your age group, the ramifications of Covid amongst youth and how these, unless addressed, could lead to widespread and long-lasting effects. I believe your study is a step in ensuring the youth of today do not become the forgotten generation.”
” Dear Diann Thank you for sharing this report with us at Shoalhaven City Council. It’s great to see the results of the extensive consultation taken with young people and to understand their priorities. Warm regards,” Jessica Richardson Community Capacity Builder – South Shoalhaven City Council (Email received 20 January 2022)
“Hi Diann, I was forwarded on your initial email from my reception team as I work within the community engagement space. Whilst it has been some time since your initial email, I just wanted to say thank you for sending through an update of your success. I know we encouraged YP in our space to complete the survey and it is great to see you received so many survey responses. This will definitely be a useful document for future community engagement plans and projects, I hope to take on board a number of the recommendations and draw from your research. All the best,”
Meghan O’Keefe, Community Engagement Officer, Headspace Wollongong (13 January 2022)