State Budget contains promising investment to create positive futures for young people

The Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA) has welcomed the positive and innovative initiatives to support young people’s wellbeing in yesterday’s 2021-22 State Budget. Key investment in community-based initiatives around youth justice, mental health, and housing and homelessness will enable better outcomes for young people, but more investment is required to make a more substantial long-term impact and allow services to meet the rise in demand that has occurred due to COVID-19.

Quotes attributable to YACWA Chief Executive Officer, Sandy McKiernan:

“This year’s State Budget is a welcome sign of positive investment for young people, and an excellent first step from the McGowan Government in shifting to community-based and future-focused investment that makes a real difference to the lives of young people,” Ms McKiernan said.

“With such a strong surplus, and the dire state of youth mental health, homelessness, and justice in Western Australia, we need to expand investment in early intervention and community-based approaches to have a real long-term impact in these areas.”

“Investment to permanently expand support for young people in out-of-home care up to the age of 21 through the Homestretch program is excellent, and YACWA applauds Minister McGurk for her work championing this issue. Young people in out-of-home care too often are forced into independence without support, ending up presenting in homelessness, mental health, and emergency services. This is a promising sign of a shift in our investment towards sustainable outcomes, supporting people with the right services early and we look forward to supporting the program as it expands.”

“Also highly appreciated is funding for community-based, culturally-responsive youth initiatives. The $1.5. million towards the Halls Creek-based Aboriginal-led justice reinvestment project, Olabud Doogethu, is a fantastic first step in moving our approach to early-intervention in the justice system in the right direction. Olabud is an effective, evidence-based program that has reduced instances of crime by providing young people with connections to their community.”

“However, while this investment is positive, more needs to be done. Funding for punitive and tertiary responses far outpaces our investment in the solutions for young people that work, intervene early, and prevent them from requiring more costly response from police, courts, and prisons.”

“We need strong investment in the coming years in community-based youth justice responses in order to set the stage for a raised age of criminal responsibility to 14 years. Children do not belong in our prisons, and we have an opportunity now to build a system that keeps children in school and with their families.”

“Youth mental health is a priority, with young people still feeling the impacts of the pandemic, coupled with years of underfunding for youth services. This budget contains some strong investment initiatives, particularly in providing youth psychosocial support and accommodation services. These are important wrap-around services that we have heard are needed from young people, and we look forward to seeing their impact in the community.”

“Unfortunately, investment continues to focus on costly crisis-based services and bed-based supports. Too often young people are unable to access supports early in the community and must become severely unwell before they receive the help they need.”

“Investment in prevention and community-based services must increase drastically in order to make a lasting difference and save lives — and money — in the long-term.”

“YACWA is also excited to see a strong boost for social housing and homelessness initiatives through an additional $884 million funding package that will combine with existing funding to deliver around 3,300 new properties. We also applaud $3.4 million investment for Youth Futures to establish a new northern suburbs crisis accommodation as well as the $6 million Local Government Partnership Fund for community-led homelessness initiatives.

“While these initiatives are positive movements in the right direction, given the current high waitlists for social housing & accommodation services as well as the scarcity of available affordable rental properties we know we will need to radically expand investment in social housing and youth homelessness services moving forward if we are to wholly address the overwhelming demand and significant burden on our state’s youth homelessness system and rental market as part of COVID-19 recovery.”

“Ultimately, this State Budget shows promise, and we applaud the McGowan Government for its focus on young people, and these first steps towards a system that prioritises the solutions that work for young people.”

“However, young people still face major challenges in accessing mental health support, and youth homelessness services are at crisis point. Western Australia continues to imprison children as young as 10, and services require transformation to intervening early.”

“We look forward to working with the McGowan Government in the coming years to shape this early investment into a longer-term solution. In our current excellent economic position, we have an opportunity to ensure no young person faces disadvantage in Western Australia in the future.”
Media contact:
Matthew Tomich
Manager, Member & Community Engagement Manager
E: matthew@yacwa.org.au  P: (08) 9227 5440

Sandy McKiernan, YACWA CEO is available for further comment.