Thursday, 6 June 2024

By YAG (Youth Advisory Group) writer Summer Woods

The Beaches' favourite youth voice forum is back and better than ever for its third year.

Held at Glen Street Theatre, Have Your Say Day is a youth-led initiative that upskills leaders from high schools across the Northern Beaches before giving them a platform to advocate for important issues that affect them.

This year's leaders presented to over 180 attendees, including local, state and federal MPs, community leaders and local organisations such as MOWANA, Avalon Youth Hub and Streetwork.

In the leadup to the night, members of the student-formed, Beaches Leadership Team, surveyed over 600 of their peers. They presented on the night some of the main issues that were raised, and the ways that we as a community can help advocate for change.

Here are some of the issues we heard about at Have Your Say Day:

The damage of academic burnout for today's teens:

Students discussed the dangers of academic burnout on today's teens, and the toxicity of the current mindset that the HSC and associated burnout is simply just a part of the 'high school experience'.

According to a 2022 study, 46% of Australian students experience severe academic stress and burnout. This is having adverse effects on their social lives, mental health and wellbeing, as well as their relationship with work and school, and contributing to the 'grind' culture surrounding senior study.

The panel called for the implementation and use of more resources in schools to educate students on academic burnout and provide support services for those struggling. Recommendations included that work-life balance is taught at an earlier age, to instill good habits, study patterns and a holistic approach to education and student life.

Driving safety for youth:

Leaders drew the audience's attention to the current issues surrounding youth driving safety. Unsafe driving practices and the inaccessibility of alternative options to driving were highlighted as the underlying causes of many accidents experienced by young people.

Students argued that greater focus on education of how to drive defensively and reactively is needed for youth, to prepare them for emergency situations.

A lack of transport options for young people was also discussed with irregular or infrequent bus times an area for improvement, to give young people a greater range of choice and prevent placing young people in dangerous situations.

The disparity between private schools and public schools in NSW:

Students discussed the disparity between public and private school funding, and the systematic disadvantage that Australia's current funding allocations affords public school students.

Currently, the government caters for 64% of students, which is approximately 2.6 million young people, with a significant amount of state and federal funding going towards private schools whilst many public schools experience educational disadvantage. Presenters suggested many decision makers send their students to private schools, and thereby reducing the likelihood for any action to be taken on this issue.

Students want to improve the standards for resource and funding allocation, advocating for a more equitable distribution of funding.

The panel presented a future where all schools are funded to a point where we're not just surviving, but where all students and staff are thriving.

Other issues:

The forum and the following Q&A session opened up the platform for conversations including body image and social media, teacher retention, cost-of-living, procrastination, and many other issues identified by young people across the Beaches.

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