One in 10 young Australian Indigenous men rate their happiness at 'zero'

One in 10 unhappy

The rate of happiness among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men is so low that as many as 10 percent rate theirs at zero out of 10 when compared to their non-indigenous youth, a new report shows. The report by Mission Australia shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth reporting higher levels of concern about issues such as bullying, suicide, drugs and alcohol. The report calls for a fundamental shift in Indigenous youth decision making that puts young people at its centre. The report also showed 5 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young women rated their happiness at zero. Comparatively, just 1 percent of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents rated their happiness at this level.


The report is based on the responses of 18,727 respondents, 1,162 of whom identified as Aboriginal.


Sue-Anne Hunter, a Director of SNAICC (National Voice for our Children) sees young Indigenous children, especially boys, suffering from depression and believes it's because they don’t know their identity.  


The state wide manager of healing services at VACCA (Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency) says “we must start building relationships where youth, especially young boys can understand their identity”.


Catherine Yeomans, Mission Australia CEO, said the report provided "further evidence that Indigenous young people are facing more serious challenges than their non-Indigenous peers".


"As a society, Australia has a moral, social and economic duty to support all young people to reach their potential. And sadly, this report shows we are failing miserably, with too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people falling through the cracks. This is not a sustainable way for us to proceed as a nation and to me it suggests a divided society."


She called for an "urgent rethink" to ensure society is "working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to overcome the barriers in front of them – barriers that must sometimes seem insurmountable - leading to these concerning levels of despair". 


There needs to be a "fundamental shift" towards a more inclusive and consultative way of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Australia, says Mission Australia.


"Other findings showed Indigenous young people were more than twice as likely to have spent time away from home in the past three years because they felt they couldn’t return. They were also likely to have stayed away more frequently and for longer. One in five said they had spent more than six months away from home each time. 


The survey attributes a lot of the cycle of disadvantage to the concept of intergenerational trauma - the physical and psychological impacts of trauma on a child's development that's handed down through generations.


Twenty-five percent of homeless people in Australia are indigenous, although they comprise only 2.5 percent of the population.


"Without adequate housing, we cannot expect young people to go to school or go to work,” argues Catherine Yeomans at Mission Australia. 


“And without good health, a solid education and strong job prospects, young people cannot hold much hope of having their own home in the future. We need to address both housing needs and the broader underlying and intersecting disadvantage.


"The good news is that, where we do improve housing and provide wraparound supports, these sustainable exits from homelessness result in significant savings for government from crisis accommodation, health and justice costs.


"Investing in the future of our nation and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people -– and putting them at the centre of policy and programs – is an urgent moral, social and economic imperative."


“We can’t let our young people despair and lose hope,” says Tom Calma, an Aboriginal elder, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and chancellor of the University of Canberra. , said the report pointed to serious disadvantages faced by young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 


The report found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths more likely to name homelessness and housing as an important issue facing Australia.


"Getting a job was more important to young Indigenous people. They were less likely to be in paid employment, but more likely to be looking for work."


Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are incarcerated at the world’s highest rate.


Suicide prevention researcher, prison reform expert and advocate, Gerry Georgatos, explains the reasons. “It is an incarceration built on the back of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Of children who should be supported and whose families need a helping hand.


“Deprived communities are isolated by both the Australian silence and its coterie of prejudices that deliver the power imbalance of White privilege, White terms of reference.


“Equality long overdue is still denied and as long as White terms of reference are the hand that rules then the divides will widen.”


Georgatos argues that children and adults should not be incarcerated for non-violent offences.

He has spearheaded a growing call for an urgent call for a royal commission into catastrophic suicide rates in Aboriginal communities.


Many Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples suffer economic and social disadvantage, in employment, disposable income, education, health and housing. Many are poverty class and working class.


As 18 job seekers compete for every job vacancy in Australia, millions of Australians are being condemned to lives below the poverty line, prompting the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union and several other organisations “to express our deep concern regarding Australia's punitive social security system and growing employment crisis.


"At the 'Solving Our Employment Crisis' Conference held in Melbourne earlier this year, all organisations present agreed on the importance of working together to demand the Turnbull Government address Australia's employment crisis and the punitive social security system.


“Despite this jobs crisis, the Turnbull government continues to reinforce stigma surrounding the unemployed and social security recipients by adopting a punitive approach, which has led to the criminalization of poor Australians.


"It is imperative the all parties in the Federal Parliament take responsibility for Australia's worsening employment crisis and work together to implement new policies to support Australians without work.”