Cost of living top concern for students

Cost of living top concern for students

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Member for Burt Matt Keogh was blown away by the depth of insight from our young local leaders. Photograph – Richard Polden.

The next generation of local leaders has voiced concerns about the growing disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in our society.

Inequalities in education, housing, and opportunities for social connection and engagement, and the effect of industrialisation and urbanisation on our local environment were the salient issues raised at last Friday’s Burt Youth Leadership Forum held in Gosnells.

Two students each from Armadale, Harrisdale, Kelmscott, and Thornlie Senior High Schools, and Cecil Andrews, Southern River, Yule Brook and John Calvin Christian Colleges participated in a day of sparring and brainstorming to compile a report of the most pressing problems confronting our nation, and recommendations to address them.

The cost-of-living crisis was at the forefront of students’ minds, with most worried about the far-reaching impacts of growing inequality on their lives.

Access to affordable housing was a particularly sore topic.

Students suggested a range of initiatives to alleviate financial precarity for families including “tax cuts for middle income families looking to purchase a house”, incentives for live-in home buyers, “legislation that limits land-banking”, “subsidies for construction companies to increase supply of housing”, in-school programs to ease the cost-of-living burden like breakfast clubs, and freezing prices on essential goods.

 

The group of young leaders also identified the often insidious and long-lasting impacts of an inequitable distribution of wealth and funding within our education system, and suggested a redistribution of government funding to favour lower socio-economic areas.

They also proposed surprise audits on schools.

“We want government officials to frequently visit schools – so that means sitting down, seeing what it’s like from our point of view, knowing what we have to go through day to day, seeing how teachers treat us, and seeing what it’s like beyond the fences and what’s really going on in our schools,” one presenter said.

“This will help them understand the authentic experience that we face at school.”

The students also identified the need for more mental health support at school, with the employment of more youth workers and counsellors on campus.

And lastly, was a submission that the technology needed to complete those ATAR courses administered online because of insufficient staff or student numbers to teach those courses in-person, should be provided to students by the government.

“I don’t want to have to take money out of my pay cheque to buy a laptop because we don’t have the teachers to run the course – that shouldn’t be on us. Worst case scenario, we should be given a laptop,” one presenter said.

The Burt Youth Leadership Forum is an annual event hosted by federal member Matt Keogh, since 2018.

Mr Keogh said the forum was created so that young locals can have a voice in their nation’s political direction.

He said he was impressed this year by the quality of the topics discussed and the depth of insight provided by students.

“Information [will be] collated into a report that I will then present to the Prime Minister and we will also provide to the Premier, so that our nation’s leader and our state leader are aware of the issues that are important to young people in my community here in Burt… and also the things that they would like to see done to address them,” he said.

Photographs – Richard Polden