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The Brotherhood's Social Barometer: Challenges facing Australian youth

Published by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, August 2006.

The review below was written for? Youth Field Xpress, September 2006.

This youth transition social barometer is a report forming part of the Brotherhood's ongoing Social Barometer research project that measures young Australians' abilities to deal with key phases in their life cycle such as childhood, school to work transitions, moving in and out of work and ageing and retirement.

The Brotherhood's Social Barometer: Challenges facing Australian youth draws on a wide range of academic research for its data, as well as sourcing data from organisations such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Electoral Commission.

Released in August 2006, the BSL's barometer measures youth capability and disadvantage across seven key dimensions of life: physical health, mental health, housing, education, training and employment, physical safety, economic resources and social and civic participation.

The report shows that the proportion of young people engaged in voluntary work has risen, and youth suicide rates have fallen (from around 15 per 100,000 young people in 1995 to 9.6 per 100,000 young people in 2005). In addition, rates of smoking among 12 to 14-year-olds have almost halved. But the report reveals that about one in five 15 to 19-year-olds are living below the poverty line, and only 32 per cent of young people from poorer backgrounds have home access to a computer and the internet, compared with 58 per cent of young people overall.

The report advocates 'further well-informed investment' in Australia's youth to help them through their transitions from school to work and from adolescence to adulthood.
'Activities outside education, training and work are vital means for their personal fulfillment and development. However, access to social and cultural resources is not equal for all young people, putting those with fewer resources even further behind. Young people's civic engagement includes voting and volunteering but also participation in informal and alternative political activities such as environmentalism and anti-racism.' The BSL recommends an examination of the 'interconnections' between the different aspects of life in order to combat the 'multidimensional disadvantage' faced by many young Australians, and suggests an extension of the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG's) recently-adopted human capital framework to include 'housing, income and a general measure of wellbeing'.

The report can be downloaded in full or in summary form from the Brotherhood of St Laurence website:

(Sources: Boese, M. and Scutella, R., 2006, The Brotherhood's Social Barometer: Challenges facing Australian youth, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Fitzroy, Victoria, viewed 23 August 2006,; Brotherhood of St Laurence 2006, Brotherhood Youth Barometer reveals ups and downs in longer journey to adulthood, media release, 18 August, viewed 23 August 2006,; 'Brotherhood Comment', August 2006, pp.4-5)