Australia needs a confident, generous generation who are able to contribute and lead change, in the face of emerging global challenges (Section 2), to build a better, stronger Australia. While most young Australians (64%) are optimistic about the future those feeling very positive about the future has decreased slightly each year since 2012 (Mission Australia 2014). They are more likely to report doing acts of kindness than their baby boomer parents (Habibis et al, in press). Most (80%) are also active in some kind of community, social or school activity, a fifth are volunteers (only marginally less than their parents) and around eight per cent are involved in some kind of political or civic group (ABS 2015). Studies have shown young Australians are motivated to engage in change, both at the community/local level and on broader political issues and government decision-making (Eckersley et al 2007; Taylor 2010; Commonwealth of Australia 2010).
The following section examines what we currently know about how young people are contributing and leading change in Australia. Leading change begins with participation in the general contribution activities that are the precursors to participation in governance and decision-making (Section 2) (Pope 2011). Traditionally, these have included volunteering and community school activities. More recently, technology and political consumerism have lowered the threshold for individuals to engage (Harris 2008). Australia’s young people are active in all these activities and this provides a strong base from which to build leadership.
Young people are leading change – although it is an area that is difficult to measure. They are transforming business through social enterprise, community organisations through new forms of community organising, and government through reform to its key activities using technology.
We need to invest in young people to ensure they develop the leadership skills, and gain the experience, to continue to find new ways of doing things to deal with the challenges of globalisation and their impacts on local communities (Section 2). The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) is relentlessly optimistic about their capabilities and supports them to develop their ideas, enterprise skills and global connections and to gain experience so they are equipped to build a strong future for both themselves and the nation.