“As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions.”
Those were the words of the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2015 speaking about the importance of International Youth Day.
Since 2000, International Youth Day has sought to shine a light on youth issues around the world while empowering young people to contribute fresh ideas and take proactive measures to make the world we live in a better place.
The 2016 Census of Population and Housing (Census) counted 2,988,390 Australian residents aged 15 to 24, representing about one in eight (12.8 per cent) of all Australian residents.
This year, International Youth Day celebrates, among other things, young people’s contribution to inclusion and social justice, with Census data showing that young people in Australia are more engaged than ever in helping their local community.
Over half a million people aged 15 to 24 said they spent time doing volunteer work in the 12 months prior to the Census – a figure that has continued to grow over recent Censuses (around 450,000 in 2011, and just under 395,000 in 2006).
In addition, around 151,000 people aged 15 to 24 also said they provided unpaid assistance to a person with a disability in the two weeks prior to the Census, another figure that has steadily risen in Censuses this century (around 136,000 in 2011, just under 120,000 in 2006).
The sustained increase in these figures shows that young people in Australia are committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies, a key theme of International Youth Day.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had the highest proportion of people aged 15 to 24 (14.1 per cent). Home to the Australian National University, the centrally located ACT suburb of Acton recorded three in four residents (75 per cent) aged between 15 and 24.
Looking more closely at the ACT, almost two thirds (65.3 per cent) of people aged 15 to 24 in the nation’s capital are undertaking some form of study. More than a quarter of those (28.1 per cent) reported as being born overseas, showcasing the ACT’s well-heeled credentials as a destination for overseas students.
Nationally, education remains an important aspect of life for youth in Australia, with the Census revealing more than half of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 (58 per cent, or 1.7 million people) were attending an educational institution.
Census data also shows that the youth movement is well and truly alive in portions of our overseas born populations. Almost half (47 per cent) of Australian residents born in the West African country of Cote d’Ivoire were aged between 15 and 24 – the highest proportion of any country of birth. This was closely followed by Australian residents born in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman (45 per cent) and another African entry, Guinea (43 per cent).
Australia also has a growing percentage of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth. The 2016 Census reported 123,719 persons aged 15-24 who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, an increase from 105,652 since the 2011 Census.
Australia’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth are also increasingly engaged in education – 41.7 per cent (51,533 people) of 15 to 24 year olds who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander said they were attending an educational institution, an increase from 38.3 per cent (40,461 people) in 2011.
The 2016 Census data released so far has provided a ‘selfie’ of young people in Australia, but this is just the beginning. Further 2016 Census data relating to education and employment will be released in October 2017, providing greater insight into Australia’s young people as part of the single most accurate snapshot of Australia to help individuals, organisations and governments make informed decisions on youth policy and planning issues.
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