About the conference
The YACVic ‘Here, Now and Next’ conference was held on the 14-15 October 2009 in Ballarat at the Mercure Hotel and has been organised and managed by the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria. It aims to provide information on youth issues to youth/social workers and volunteers across Victoria, although representatives from across the country and even New Zealand were present.
The effect policies have on our community
One key theme that came up from the YACVic conference was how the policies from Howard's Government had an effect on our community, although the key focus was primarily on the effect of these policies on our youth, where direct comparisons were also made between Australian and Canadian young adults as they made their way through life. This included when they finished university, first started work, got married, had children, etc. It showed how these policies along with socio-economic factors and gender played a role in shaping the lives of our young adults.
Overall, Canadians and those from high socio-economic groups generally fared better and had a happier outlook on life, and Australia was seen behind in many areas, noting that the key factors behind this were the policies and socio-economic environment within Australia compared to Canada.
It was mentioned how the Howard Government’s key focus was on reducing drug usage and while it was indicated that this has indeed reduced drug usage amongst this generation of youth, in its place was alcoholism that has been neglected. Consequently, youth as young as 14-15 years old are already drinking. Not only are they drinking earlier, they’re drinking more often and drinking the ‘hard liquor’ such as spirits. It was mentioned that studies have shown that no one should be drinking before the age of 16, or even under 22-23 years old, but 16 years old is where there would be a more 'realistic' and profound effect on the health of our youth.
The Rudd Government today is now seeking to tackle this with its focus on the area of alcoholism, where they are seeking tackle the consumption of alcopops (or 'ready-to-drink') drinks. This has been a step in the right direction, at least in terms of its focus on the issue, although it has been seen to potentially alienate our youth if they are the one ones targeted in their initiatives. The issue, as pointed out in the conference, was more so at how it (‘alcoholism’) is so well-engrained into our Australian culture, and that is what should be addressed more, as I have seen in some of the advertisements now.
The 'lost' generation
Nevertheless, it was mentioned that we now may have a 'lost' generation (14-25 years olds - including myself) whom we may not or cannot effectively re-educate about the risks of alcohol. Our focus instead can be to mitigate the risks and ensure that the lost generation can at least take care of themselves and their friends. As the youth of this lost generation want to be able to take care of their friends and family, however, are concerned about the implications of drinking at such a young age at least in the eyes of the law. As such, they can put themselves and their friends at risk by not calling that ambulance when they really should, and instead may unintentionally see their friends die (from choking on their own vomit, false remedies causing more harm than good, etc). Things that could easily be avoided with the right knowledge provided to this vulnerable generation of youth.
Initiatives have been mentioned to now be in place to work on gradually phasing out the sports-alcohol related advertising, though it is expected to be phased out over a 10-20 year period, just as cigarettes were.
Let’s hope we can indeed save this ‘lost’ generation, the generation that will be the future leaders of our community...
Here's a excellent clip of where this lost generation will be heading. Enjoy! It's great :)