How young people are experiencing the social and economic impacts of COVID-19

Content type
Event date

23 June 2020, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Katherine Ellis, Annika McCaffrey, Fadak Alfayadh




About this webinar

This webinar was held on Tuesday 23 June 2020. 

This collaboration between AIFS and the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) featured YACVic CEO Katherine Ellis and a panel of young people discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on young people in Australia. Katherine spoke on the disproportionate impacts that COVID-19 is having on young people, looking at both the immediate and long term, with references to survey data from YACVic and other national data. 

The panel presented case studies to help understand the impacts on young people, and were available to answer questions from a perspective of lived experience.

Audio transcript (edited)

MS HAND: My name is Kelly Hand and I'm Deputy Director of Research at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. I'd like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on today including in Melbourne the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and I pay my respects to all elders past and present of the other communities where you are participating today.

Families in Focus month has been a great opportunity for us to share insights from some of our keynote speakers who would have been presenting at the AIFS 2020 conference. So far we've heard from Richard Weston, CEO of SNAICC, the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and Maree Brown, Director of the Child Wellbeing Unit, New Zealand Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Today we have speakers from the Youth Affairs Council Victoria or YACVic as it is known by many, to help us understand how young people are experiencing COVID-19. There is an infographic in the handout section of GoToWebinar that YACVic has made that highlight the main findings of the survey they've recently undertaken.

To our panel who have been waiting patiently. Today we have Annika McCaffrey, Katherine Ellis and Fadak Alfayadh. Annika McCaffrey, Annika is an advocate for children and young people who are affected by family violence and disadvantaged by the justice system, welcome Annika. Katherine, I'll come to you too, is CEO of YACVic and has over 25 years' experience in senior positions across the private, public and not for profit sectors with extensive experience in youth development, policy and practice, organisational leadership and change management and cross sectoral collaboration. And finally Fadak, welcome Fadak. Fadak is an Australian community lawyer, advocate for gender equality, writer and 15 years ago settled in Victoria as a refugee from Iraq.

We're going to hear from each of our panellists first then we'll open to questions from all of you. So please start thinking about what you'd like to ask and post your questions in the questions field on the GoToWebinar platform. To help us get through as many of them as we can please make your questions short, sharp and snappy.

I'd like to start with Katherine if that's okay and ask you what prompted this – what prompted this webinar was a survey YACVic recently conducted about young people's experiences of COVID-19. What prompted you to undertake this survey?

MS ELLIS: Thanks Kelly. It's a pleasure to be here and I'd like to acknowledge that while I normally live and work on the Wurundjeri lands of the Kulin nation today I'm actually on the lands of the Yuin people otherwise known as Batemans Bay. So when the COVID‑19 disruption started it became very clear very quickly to YACVic that young people were going to be disproportionately affected by it and so we wanted to make sure that we knew directly from young people and from the organisations who work and support – work with and support young people what was going on for them and what they were anticipating on the horizon.

So we did two surveys. One directly with young people and the other one with leaders and workers in organisations and we found with the organisations that they were recording an uptick in demand already and this was very early in the crisis and at the same time some of them were having to stand down staff which was a real concern to us.

So but most of them had moved very quickly to put their services online or adapt them in some other way and have response plans in place which was fantastic. And what we also found was that they reported very similarly what they were concerned about for young people was what the young people were recording themselves.

And so what young people were saying was they were very concerned about social disconnection and particularly for teenagers. For emerging adults, young people, so the sort of 18 to 25 group, the biggest concern they had was around employment and income support unsurprisingly. All of them reported mental health concerns and there was also a lot of concern around education disruption and in some quarters concerns around the impacts of increased levels of family violence in the home.

And we also found some things that we were not expecting or you know, were less obvious, I guess. Things like disabled young people were very concerned about how the disruption was going to affect them in terms of their access to workers and their access to workers in schools and the support they usually receive in education but also their ability even to leave the home if their workers were not able to be with them. And young disabled people also, those on disability support pensions, missed out on the coronavirus supplement as well that other young people on income support received.

So there were other things like young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were having increased stress because they were having to interpret for their families and they were having to help siblings with school work because their parents weren't able to and in fact, communication generally around COVID-19 was a massive issue for young people because I think we were all overwhelmed by how much information was coming down the line from the government on a daily basis and in fact YACVic, we spent a lot of our time in those early weeks and even still now, interpreting that information, making it succinct and pulling out the bits that are directly relevant to young people.

But what was also the problem was that the language that was being used and the channels that were being used were not what young people – not conducive to young people actually hearing that information and understanding it. So I think that was a big learning. That if anything like this happens again we really need to be working directly with the government immediately on making sure that young people are hearing the messages.

There were other things like LGBTQIA plus young people in lockdown with families who don't accept their sexuality or are not supportive of it. Sexual health clinics being closed. So young people, particularly young women, not able to access contraception and abortion.

One that's come out more recently is also related to girls which is because organised sport has been shut down the sort of 14 to 15 year old age group is when a lot of young women drop out of sport anyway and with everything being stopped there's a huge risk that more young women than normal will drop out of sport and your sport is such an important thing for young women's social and physical health, physical and mental health but also for their opportunities for leadership and teamwork and that kind of thing.

There was a big concern around technology particularly for young people in rural and regional areas. So access to devices, access to the internet and the Victorian government actually put in place a plan to give devices to any young person who needed it and that did help some young people but I don't think it made it to all young people and certainly it wasn't a national policy. So there were young people all across Australia who struggled, really struggled to do education in an online way.

And I think there were things like, also like, you know, young people who have left home and were living independently either because they needed to go away to university or TAFE or they needed to move somewhere else to get a job or who aren't safe at home for reasons of family violence or as I mentioned before, their families not accepting who they are and some of those young people, they weren't considered independent and therefore eligible for income support from the government and so were surviving with part time jobs as they studied or as they did other things. And so many of them lost their jobs because young people are so disproportionately affected by job loss in this crisis that they've been forced to move home even though home isn't necessarily safe for them.

So I think that – and I think one other point that was less obvious was that while there was a lot of money put into mental health support and Telehealth and that's fantastic and there's been some really good outcomes for a lot of young people because of that, there are also young people who live in environments where they don't have the privacy and the confidentiality to be able to access those services in a way that's safe and productive for them.

But actually while I'm just talking about good outcomes, a couple of others. There are some young people for whom learning from home by technology has actually really worked for them. Either because they are not experiencing bullying at school at the moment or because they're benefitting from being able to pace their own learning. So you know, I think the Education Department, certainly in Victoria, is really looking at how do they actually take those gains and those learnings and make sure they don't get lost as things return to whatever's going to be the new normal.

And I think the other one is that where you have young people who are on JobSeeker or some other kind of income support, where they have been eligible for the coronavirus supplement they've effectively doubled their financial resources over the last few months and that has meant for some young people the difference between being able to have three meals a day and pay their rent without worrying whereas before they were living below the poverty line.

So we're really hoping that as we go forward unless the government comes up with new policies and we move out of this crisis that some of those good results for young people are maintained at the same time as resources are thrown at addressing the issues, the really, really significant issues for young people in terms of mental health and jobs and disruption to their education.

MS HAND: Thanks Katherine. What an incredibly rich set of insights from that survey and to get that out and back so quickly is fabulous. Thank you. Fadak, are these experiences familiar to you and what have you been hearing from young people you work with and know?

MS ALFDAYADH: Yep. Absolutely and thank you for sharing some of these insights into the survey. I'd like to acknowledge that we are - where I am at the moment in Melbourne I'm on Wurundjeri land and pay my respects to elders past and present and any who might be watching us today.

These experiences are absolutely appropriate to – you know, to summarise what young people have been experiencing and I do want to specifically start talking about mental health amongst migrant and refugee communities. A lot of what – the conversations that we're having at the moment around coronavirus, around you know, our inability to visit family and friends, our inability to travel and being under some forms of lockdown, you know, across a variety of restrictions, I've been having conversations with young people from refugee backgrounds specifically and that's heavily impacted their mental health. It's often reminded them of times where they were in refugee camps or they were in precarious situations where they didn't – they weren't able to leave their accommodation or leave a refugee camp, you know, to visit family or to go to work or school or otherwise. So I think that's specifically a triggering and impactful time to refugees' mental health.

The other area that I wanted to explore is around how we often find that people from migrant and refugee communities are somewhat over represented in the essential worker categories and that's – you know, we've seen that in other countries in the world where that often impacts these communities a lot sooner or at a larger scale.

You know, we've specifically seen this in the US where people from African American or Latino backgrounds have been more impacted by the coronavirus and I think we're starting see that although there's probably not as much data to show – to show that but I have been hearing anecdotally from community members that because they work in these essential services such as cleaners or delivery drivers, they are more exposed to impacts of coronavirus and COVID-19 which is unique to people who work in low paying and insecure jobs.

I also want to flag that a lot of migrant communities, refugees because they often end up in casual work were some of the people who were impacted by job losses very early on and you know, I live in an area at the moment where it is one of the hotspots here in Melbourne in terms of the large number of cases of coronavirus and there is a very diverse community here. So I can only imagine that people are worried about their work and you know, what they would do if they had to isolate and what that would mean for their income and for their family to keep, you know, food on the table which is completely, you know, understandable but obviously it's not appropriate for making sure that we're all safe.

And I think at the moment the government's response to supporting cut off communities, to producing material in language and to visiting people on the ground, I think is a really good idea because that way we can reach people who might not have access to the amount of news or information that we all do and to get the accurate and appropriate communication such as, you know, to stay home if you're sick. Even if you – even if they're very mild symptoms and to get tested and to – or the coughing etiquettes. A lot of that information can be missed if you're not an English speaker and I think the responses at the moment is quite, quite valid.

MS HAND: Okay. Thank you, Fadak. Annika, you've started a bit of a campaign around support for young people experiencing domestic violence. Can you tell us about where this idea came from and why it was needed during the pandemic?

MS McCAFFREY: Okay. So my campaign is called The Hidden Victors which is an online YouTube video that stars young victors of family violence and by victor I mean a young person who has alleged experience of family violence. I just want to point out that the reason why they're called victors is because they all have a history of victory.

So how it all started was when I was working for YACVic under their Young Thinker in Residence program which is a program for young people to think on a social or political topic issue of their choosing and develop a project.

So my project was primarily focused on family violence and the impact it has on children and young people. A social justice issue that I reflected on and used from my own personal lived experience of family violence. Throughout my lived experience I didn't get the help that I needed growing up. As a young person you rely heavily on and should be able to trust teachers from your school, for example, child protection workers and the police. They were the people that made me mistrust the justice system most while I was going through family violence.

My experience made me feel powerless and hopeless and that's exactly what The Hidden Victors is about. It's the opposite to that. It is about addressing only a few issues mentioned by the young people in the video to the system and giving other young people who may be going through family violence personal messages of hope and this is absolutely crucial that the message is needed, especially at this difficult time to know that they're not alone and that their voice matters.

It has been reported currently that cases of family violence are more – higher during COVID-19 due to restrictions and having to self-isolate. I will point out, however, that family violence is still present no matter what. Young people's experience of family violence is often overlooked and not considered by police members and workers in the sector. Young people are more vulnerable because many don't know what safety plans are in place or how to act on them because they haven't been able to be in the making of them.

There has been little consideration of what children and young people of family violence need during lockdown and this has been the same since before COVID-19.

MS HAND: What could policymakers and practitioners in the courts do to better support young people experiencing family violence?

MS McCAFFREY: Firstly, children and young people's experience should be heard to help inform policy and practice. We have insights that no other person or text book or research has. There should be resources such as screening and assessment tools developed to help children – to help teachers, police, youth workers and DHHS workers to engage with children and young people who've lived experiences of family violence better.

Children and young people's experiences should be supported and taken seriously. Children and young people should be involved in safety planning because at the end of the day they are the ones that knows what makes them feel safe at night. They are the experts and overall children and young people's voices need to be part of the conversation.

MS HAND: Thank you. Fadak, have you been hearing similar things in your community work around family violence?

MS ALFAYADH: Absolutely. I think – I do agree with Annika that it's really distressing to hear of stories where, you know, women and children have to often be isolated with a family member who has – who is also a perpetrator of family violence and that's – I mean there are a lot of stories that were coming out in specific diverse areas around Melbourne. We were seeing more cases of family violence amongst diverse communities and I think, you know, - I think it's across the board that it's a stressful time and that often heightens the risk of violence against women and family violence. Although there is – you know, everybody goes through stress and there's absolutely no excuse for violence when someone is stressed. That's not – I don't think that's the reason in driving violence but it does add to the factors that enable violence against women.

And I just want to talk a little bit more about what young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds are going through. I mean as Katherine mentioned, young people have been heavily impacted by the disruptions and including loss of employment and impacts to education. However, something that I have been seeing that's been really quite positive is that I've been hearing of stories – people saying to me or mentioning that the wider community finally can sort of empathise with some of what the refugee communities and migrant communities go through. You know, specifically around the isolation that we find ourselves in at the moment. The needing or the feeling of fear.

You know, I often think about, you know, in early March when we all started preparing for lockdown and there was, you know, a rush to the shops to get as many supplies as possible. You know, these kinds of situations have made people think about what it is like to be a refugee or to be someone who's going through, you know, a massive global event that's putting a lot of stress on them and their families and I've, you know, in conversations, Refugee Week was only last week and you know, I had a few talks where people in the end they said, you know, we can finally empathise with the refugee experience because we feel like we've gone through something very similar at the moment during the COVID-19 where there is so much uncertainty and a lot of cautiousness and a little bit of fear about the unknown which is something that refugee communities go through absolutely every day.

So for me if there is one positive outcome it has been that and it's been touching to hear that there is empathy across the community as well.

MS HAND: M'mm yeah. Thanks for that.

MS ALFAYADH: I think while there are many people who experience vulnerabilities in Australia every day there's a group of people who've experienced that perhaps for the first time with such intensity through the pandemic and that perhaps maybe has led to a shift in perspectives. It was a very unsettling time for us all that's for sure.

MS HAND: I had a question which I'd be interested in each of you giving me a bit of a response to. Is that in our own survey we found that young people felt more lonely and disconnected than older people in general and this was a bit of a surprise to us because I think there was this sense early on that because young people are much more engaged with the digital world and social media and you know, probably experts at Zoom even before we started the pandemic, I think there was an assumption that they would be able to stay more connected and so I'm interested in your thoughts because that doesn't seem to be how it's panned out. People talk about being much more lonely.

MS ELLIS: Well I was actually surprised when we received that response in our survey as well but then when I thought – because I - you know, we're talking about digital natives. Young people who have never known anything but having 24/7 access to friends via the internet. But then I thought about it and actually I think it's a really good lesson to us that young people do get an enormous amount of their social connections through school, through sport, through community activities, through volunteering and when all of that is taken away and the only thing that is left is the internet, actually it is huge deficit in their lives and in actual fact I think it's a good learning for us in terms of how do we rebuild our community and how do we look at where people are lonely and invest in face to face community activities where young people can actually be drawn into those and supported to participate in them. It's not something that comes naturally.

So you know, it could be a very, very positive outcome out of this whole process as well as the ability to deal with uncertainty which Fadak was mentioning. I'm a Gen X and I know that my generation was defined by the 1990s recession when so many of us couldn't get jobs and we didn't know, you know, when the economy was going to come back. It doesn't even compare to what's happening now but I know that that was – you know, that's where Gen X was defined and I think this generation of young people are going to be – I think we'll have a level of resilience that, you know, is probably unheard of, unprecedented to use that word that we've heard so much of, going forward and part of that will be looking at these hybrid models around digital combined with face to face and the recognition that the human connection is a huge part of our lives.

MS HAND: And just adding to what you're saying, Katherine, I think it's a fantastic reflection to think about how can we support young people in the future and take this time to reflect on some of that face to face connection and activities. I mean going back to some of the results that you discussed and seeing that the intersectionality of disadvantage can impact some young people more than others and I think there needs to be an investment in supporting the variety of diversity that young people are. You know, whether it's, you know, from being a --– from a cultural and linguistic or religious background but also in terms of gender and sexuality and just ensuring that there are a variety of safe spaces for young people to meet with likeminded – you know, other likeminded people and to have access to safe spaces where they can connect with others just like them.

MS ELLIS: Actually one group we haven't talked about and it was remiss of me to not mention it earlier when I was talking through the different impacts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have been very seriously affected by COVID-19 partly in terms of the additional risk to Aboriginal communities where particularly if people have health issues that mean that they're more susceptible to the virus itself but also in terms of the cultural restrictions that were created by the COVID-19 lockdown where young people couldn't have access to elders, couldn't have access to their community through – when Sorry Business happened at funerals and things and – so there's - and then on top of that, of course, the Black Lives Matter movement has become – has blown up enormously which is very positive in a lot of ways but actually has also put an enormous emotional strain on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people through this whole period when it was already heightened for them.

So I feel like part of actually evolving from this crisis is also going to be really listening to Aboriginal communities about what they need for their young people and how the rest of us can support that being put into place quickly and effectively.

MS HAND: Yeah. Thanks, Katherine. We have question from the audience which I might put to you all. Does the panel believe that the rights of youth are slowly being eroded away whilst in the time of COVID and does the panel also believe that young people will get our rights back when it is all over? Fadak, would you like to start with that one?

MS ALFAYADH: Sure. Rights eroded. Look I think that we are going through a lot of change at the moment and I think that they are telling times, they are challenging times and I hope that it's a time where we can reflect on how we can be better and I think we've already come up with some suggestions so far in the panel as to, you know, using this as a time for us to reflect as a community or from you know, a policy maker's perspective reflect on what could be improved.

I think that, you know, we've seen, you know, like the Centrelink payments being increased and you know, free childcare and some of these initiatives that have really gone a long way to support people in need and people who have been directly impacted. So I think that to an extent we've taken this time as an opportunity to step out of the norm and support people in the community who need it but I think there's a long way to go and I think that we absolutely need to use this as a time to reflect and a time where – as a time where we can learn as to, you know, what's missing and what can we do better and specifically to support those vulnerable.

I go back to the intersectionality point because you know, some young people are more impacted than others and I think we need to take a unique look as to how we can support them specifically as well as young people more generally.

MS McCAFFREY: Yeah, moving forward I mean I guess like using this time to reflect and also using this time to also like move forward. Now that we've experience this, you know, what is it – the future that's going to make positive change and positive impact. To be honest I'm just thinking that it's just – it's something so – something that we could have done a long time ago. Something that should have been implemented a long time ago but now we've been forced to kind of reflect during this time I reckon we should use it as a positive to move forward.

I'm not too sure what that's going to look like but I'm hoping that it's going to be a positive impact upon everyone. Upon our communities, upon our young people.

MS ELLIS: Yeah. I think in terms of rights of young people it's something that we always need to keep in mind and keep an eye on because there are ways that young people's rights can be quite insidiously undermined and we – and you know, they also say, 'Never waste a crisis', and at this moment the country can go in a number of different directions based on what's been happening and what are the sort of ideologies of different governments and what the population wants as well.

There's a real risk that young people will be the scapegoats of this crisis and history shows after the GFC and after the 90s recession young people were hit the hardest and they were the last ones to recover and the ones that took the longest to recover in terms of employment. This time it's also education and mental health and all kind of other things as well.

So Danielle Wood who's the incoming CEO at the Grattan Institute a few weeks ago on Q&A was talking about the fact if we're all in this together it's not right that young people, having already sacrificed in terms of losing their social life at a time when, you know, peers and exerting independence is such a huge part of development and having their education disrupted and losing their jobs, should also be then asked to bear the burden of the recovery in terms a massive debt for the future that they will have to pay off and cuts to social services and welfare services and education. We've already seen, you know, this week there's a real risk that some of the university courses are going to be made more expensive.

So we need to be making sure that young people are not paying the price twice and we have a tax system that's very, very biased towards older people. So maybe if we're all in it together now is the time that we really seriously need to be looking at that.

We also potentially need to be asking business leaders to be willing to take a cut on their bottom line in order to fund entry level jobs for young people and to perhaps pay a bigger – make a bigger contribution to the tax base of the country in order to be able to fund the things that young people are going to need over the next 10 years to really come out of this crisis without the sort of long term intergenerational, sorry generational scarring that's a real risk.

MS HAND: Yeah, thank you. Annika, back to you. When children are subjected – who are subjected to abuse reach out, we have a question about why exactly do you think the system is unable to take decisive steps quickly?

MS McCAFFREY: I guess – I'm not too sure why exactly that's the case but just from reflecting on my own personal experience and from other young people's experience that I've interacted with, it's something that they're just not involved in and when they're not involved in the decision making it reflects and impacts on them twice as harder because their – people are making decisions on their behalf that they're unaware of and that they may not feel safe about, they may not feel comfortable about and it just leaves them in this uncomfortable position. Like if this is really going to be the best thing for me?

So that's – yeah, that – I'm not too sure if that answers the question but yeah, that's all I can say.

MS HAND: Well as you said, I mean it's more understanding from your experience what's happening and I think, you know, that's really important for us in this panel today. How about young people's employment generally and, you know, tend to be more casual part time insecure employment. How do we think that's going to be impacted on going forward from this point on? Since the pandemic. Is there any indication from the survey, Katherine?

MS ELLIS: Well we did the survey very early on and it wasn't looking at solutions, it was just looking at what was going on for young people. But already at that point we knew that there was a big impact on young people's jobs for a couple of reasons.

One, is that the industries that were hit hard and hit early were the ones where – that employed an enormous number of young people. So hospitality, the arts, tourism and they're also the industries where a lot of young people get their first foot on the job ladder and get that experience that allows them to go on and get more jobs afterwards. The second reason is that a lot of those jobs are casualised and if a young person hadn't been in the causal job for a year then they weren't entitled to JobKeeper either. So there was a double whammy there as well.

And so you know, some of those industries will come back. Some of them will come back fully, some of them won't come at all and there's probably something in the middle there to. So and as young people are looking for jobs they're going to be competing with young people coming through after them and they're also going to be competing with older people with more experience who are also looking for jobs.

So it's a pretty concerning outlook and in actually fact one of the solutions needs to be that governments at federal and state and local levels are looking at how can they actually invest in stimulus packages that are pro youth. So how can they actively created jobs that will specifically give opportunities to young people?

Whether it's to get a first step on the ladder of getting job work experience or whether it's about a long term career, without that proactivity it's going to be very difficult for many young people to ever get into the workplace.

MS HAND: Yeah. Fadak, Annika, did either of you have anything to add to that question in terms of your own contacts?

MS ALFAYADH: Only a little bit. I think it makes – this question makes me reflect on some of the data that came out to say that women and young people were disproportionally more impacted by job losses and specifically around – you know, since March and it does make me think that, you know, we're at a time where we can, as a nation, make a decision to support people who have been left behind and sadly it is disadvantaged people and communities and groups that often end up in insecure work and as a result – and like Katherine said, sometimes in industries that have – were some of the first to be impacted by the crisis. So I think that it is a time where we can decide where to go next and definitely a critical time for us as a community.

MS HAND: I think staying with the theme of the future I'd be interested in, for each of you in the work that you do, whether – what feedback you're getting from young people about how they are feeling about the future at this time. Katherine, can I start with you?

MS ELLIS: Well I think young people are very keen to be part of the solutions and play a role in the rebuilding of the country and that's a very, very positive thing and very in line with, you know, good practice in youth participation and youth voice. I think if we don't – we must take advantage of that and we must actively say this is the time, if ever, that young people are able to step up and be at the centre of development and centre of thinking about and reimagining of how this country needs to be and that includes all young people. Young people from all kinds of backgrounds and to Fadak's point. Young people whose voices are often not heard because they're part of communities that can face marginalisation particularly when it comes to decisions being made.

So I think it's very positive that young people are ready and you know, I work with them every day and they're amazing and I don't think a lot of decision makers actually have that experience and understand how fantastic young people can be if they have a platform and the resources and the encouragement and the doors are opened.

So we all need to be actually looking at how can we, at any point, whether a decision's being made about COVID-19 recovery and actually bushfire recovery too because we can't forget the bushfire communities who were so devastated less than six months ago. You know, it's all part of the recovery process now and the rebuilding and the reimagining.

We hear a lot about Build Back Better and without young people's voices how could we possibly do that? Young people have the biggest stake in the future. They have the most skin in the game right now. They are creative. They think out of left field. I mean I would love to have a philanthropist or a government step forward and say, 'We want to pay young people in every community to actually go and talk to business leaders, community leaders and identify opportunities in their community that can be invested in that will create jobs, that will rebuild community'. I mean what a wonderful outcome that would be from this crisis.

MS HAND: Yeah. I can see that, Catherine. Annika, I'm interested in your answer to that question but to add to it, what are meaningful ways that young people could be then engaged to contribute to developing Australia's future?

MS McCAFFREY: Definitely to trust too. Because I'm a youth worker. I work with little kids. To just listen to their creative ideas. Like what – especially about this time. The amount of imaginative, creative ideas that they have to do – to do at home and what they create and what they come up with is just amazing. Just to get them busy and to get them energetic. Just to get them up and you know, even out of the place just for a walk at the park around. Just all those kind of things.

And just moving forward, I think, they will be using what they've learnt throughout this time doing that and even pushing for some ideas if they're talking to their teachers at schools. Just some creative ways to – if this was to happen – if this was to drag along or if this crisis was to happen again to incorporate those ideas and listen to them because they have minds that – you know, we don't think like them and like the amount of creativity that comes out of them is just amazing. So I think that's – I think it's really important.

MS ELLIS: Could I just add to what Annika said then in terms of the school environment? One of the sort of potential outcomes of this whole crisis is that there's going to be a lot of young people whose education was disrupted and they don't catch up again. And so actually investing in schools and teachers and teacher aides and youth workers in schools to help this generation catch up and keep up will be a really important part of coming out of this and really taking young people seriously as Annika said, in terms of their ability to make recommendations and play a role in how their school should function and how it should go forward as well because they know. They know what's going to work for them. They know what's going to work for their peers.

I was talking to a young person recently who said that – we were talking about how there's a lot of young people at risk of dropping out of school because they haven't really coped with working online and they maybe were on the edge anyway and how do you entice them back into school and this young person was saying, 'Well they've all missed the social side of school'. So what we should be doing is actually emphasising the social side of school. Having welcome back events and things that actually entice young people back for the social connection and then they can be supported to catch up on the academic work.

MS HAND: Great. Thank you. Fadak, did you have anything to add around engaging young people and their hopes for the future?

MS ALFAYADH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I'm just reflecting on some of the comments that I heard only last week from young people during Refugee Week and one of the things that, you know, I was asked is, 'How do we get through this uncertain time?'. The biggest thing I was able to reflect on was back to my refugee experience 16 years ago when the thing that got me going is hope. And you know, my advice to people, young people or otherwise, is unless we have hope that things will get better in the future and that we will be able to go back to a new normal then that's a big thing that's going to enable us to keep going, especially kind of in terms of supporting each other and ourselves is with our mental health and ensuring that, you know, we keep a positive outlook. I mean I don't know what would have gotten me through my experience – my experience if it wasn't some degree of hope that things will get better for me and for my family.

I am also hopeful because going back to what I said earlier in terms of there is a lot more empathy and there is a lot more kindness that I am seeing towards refugee and migrant communities at the moment where people are able to reflect about the challenges and the difficulties that these families go through, whether it be the decision to leave a country overnight and to flee and to seek safety elsewhere because something's so big and so much bigger than you that you can't control how it's happened.

I think we are at a time where I feel very hopeful that a lot more empathy is being shown towards people who seek asylum and I feel really pleased to see that people are able to reflect on that and to empathise with others when we are going through such a difficult time.

And my last point around the future is that we need each other to get through this and yes, we are separated and yes, we are – we're not socialising as we used to but we still need each other and just because we have physical distancing doesn't mean we should have social distancing, you know, in terms of, you know, talking to each other whether it be online or you know, in person under the guideline but I think that's the other thing that's going to get us through this difficult time and a vital one for our community is that we need each other to get through this.

MS HAND: Thanks. Thanks and that's an excellent point, I think, to wind up the conversation we've been having today. So thank you and I mean it's been brilliant to be able to speak with the three of you and hear your insights about, I think, what is an issue we will be talking about a lot for a long time to come, I think, in terms of the impacts on young people and our needs to support them.

For the audience, as we exit the webinar there's a brief survey that's going to appear and we'd love it if we could hear your insights on how we've gone today and what you'd like to hear from us in the future. I'd just also like to remind people that this webinar was actually going to happen at our conference this year in 2020 but unfortunately because we are not allowed to physically be together right now we've gone to a webinar format.

But we are going to hopefully have our conference or we are going to have our conference in June 2021 and registrations are now open. So please have a look and head to our website to find out more and register and join us for then.

Also I'd just like to promote some more webinars that are coming up in Our Families in Focus series. So later this week on 25 June we have our fourth webinar which is featuring Angela Lynch who's discussing COVID-19 and its impacts on the family violence legal and service system. On 30 June we have Jay Weatherill talking about a new early childhood system in Australia. Don't miss out on those and further details of all our June webinars can be found on our website.

But before we finish up I'd like to thank again our presenters today. It's been fabulous talking to you and getting to know you virtually. I'm looking forward to meeting you all in person in the future. So thank you Katherine Ellis from YACVic and Annika McCaffrey and Fadak Alfayadh, it was a really rich and important discussion and I really appreciate your time today. Thank you very much.



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The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action


CEO of YACVic 

Katherine joined YACVic as CEO in May 2019 and has over 25 years’ diverse experience in senior positions across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, with extensive expertise in youth development policy and practice, organisational leadership and change management, and cross-sectoral collaboration.

Katherine previously worked for six years in London as Director of Youth Affairs at the Commonwealth of Nations, working on youth empowerment policy and programming across 53 countries with governments, youth leaders and other stakeholders. Her career also includes five years leading and transforming the Reach Foundation, as well as periods consulting to other organisations such as Teach for Australia and the Foundation for Young Australians. Earlier, she spent over a decade in the private sector, working both in Australia and internationally in a variety of analysis, strategy and corporate social responsibility roles.

Katherine holds a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, a Master in e-Business, a Bachelor of Commerce, and a Diploma of Youth Work. She is also a Non-Executive Director of TRY Australia, a Mentor with Women on Boards, and a Fellow of Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Community Leadership Program.

Annika is an advocate for children and young people who are affected by family violence and disadvantaged by the justice system.

She is an independent lived experience consultant who advises various organisations and services on how to better support children and young people experiencing family violence.

Annika was the creator of 'The Hidden Victors' campaign that puts young people front and centre in the family violence discussion.

She has appeared multiple times on the ABC to speak on the issue; she also trains young people on how to advocate for themselves and is a support worker for family violence survivors.

Fadak is a young Australian community lawyer, advocate for gender equity, writer, and 15 years ago, she was a refugee. Fadak is on a mission to unite Australians by reminding all of Australia’s strength in diversity.

After being fed up with the narrative around refugees and migrant communities in Australia, Fadak decided to head the Meet Fadak speaking tour, Australia’s first national speaking tour by a person from a refugee background. Through the campaign, she highlights Australia’s strength in diversity and wants to change the story about refugees, as we have heard it.

Legal work: Fadak’s community legal work was centred around upholding human rights and ensuring access to legal services for those marginalised. She worked with marginalised communities and people who weren’t able to afford or locate legal justice, including: women experiencing family violence, youth, the elderly, people experiencing mental illness, Indigenous communities, newly arrived communities and people experiencing unemployment.

Newly arrived: Fadak worked in the refugee rights sector, including in settlement services to provide vital assistance to newly arrived refugees. She was also part of a number of legal teams that saw significant change for people seeking asylum.

Public speaking, writing and commentating: Fadak is an international and local speaker and commentator. She often speaks on topics that include: refugees and asylum seekers, migrants and immigration, diversity, identity and belonging and feminist issues.

Preventing violence against women: Fadak currently works in creating and implementing strategy to prevent all forms of violence against women in Melbourne.