Legislative Council: Thursday, December 01, 2022


Youth Opportunities

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.S. Lee:

That this council—

1. Congratulates Youth Opportunities on celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022;

2. Recognises the positive impact that Youth Opportunities has made in the lives of almost 15,000 young people across more than 80 schools and organisations in South Australia since its establishment; and

3. Acknowledges the valuable role that Youth Opportunities plays in empowering young people to reach their full potential through its personal leadership programs and social enterprise, Generation Thrive.

(Continued from 19 October 2022.)

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (16:06): I rise today in support of the motion. Youth Opportunities has been working with the Department for Education since 2013, and over that time they have developed many great partnerships with schools and created a wonderful experience for thousands of students.

In 2021-22, Youth Opportunities delivered 49 programs to 925 students across 23 schools in South Australia. One of the important features of the program is a recognition that there are activities and engagement that also need to happen outside the classroom in support of the students' learning pathways. This program is helping to bridge a gap for teachers and schools by helping to improve students' mental health and wellbeing and allowing schools to focus more on students' learning.

The program is designed to lift students' aspirations and empower them to set goals and manage their own careers. The program recognises that, for young people, setting goals for the future, continuing a learning pathway and thinking about a dream job is not possible without successfully managing their health and wellbeing. The Youth Opportunities program has been effective in improving students' wellbeing and reducing the number of students at high risk of developing mental health concerns, and tracking of graduates two years after their involvement in the program has shown sustained improvements in both their wellbeing and their academic achievements.

As a government, we are committed to working with schools to ensure we set young people up for success by supporting their wellbeing and ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge for future success. This is not just about achieving good outcomes in terms of post-school pathways, but achieving longer term positive social outcomes that we know come from pursuing meaningful education and employment.

By providing individualised support and personalised coaching, the Youth Opportunities program supports students to develop skills and strategies in the areas of wellbeing, resilience, engagement and leadership. The program also supports the development of self-reflection and goal planning, tools that will support students to successfully complete school by making clear connections between their classroom learning and future career pathways.

Students, teachers and Youth Opportunities staff tell us that what they achieve over the 10 weeks of the program helps them set up well to continue schooling and make a successful transition to further education, employment and a bright future.

The Hon. S.L. GAME (16:09): I rise to lend my support to this motion and congratulate Youth Opportunities on a quarter-century of instilling resilience, self-confidence and personal leadership qualities in our young people.

While it is heartwarming to read the overwhelming positive testimonials from the students who graduated from the personal leadership program, it is also reassuring to know that this is backed by statistical data. Using internationally recognised measures, Youth Opportunities are able to proudly claim that a full 93 per cent of their graduates reported feeling that they gained more responsibility for taking action in their own lives.

Similarly impressive results were obtained regarding students' improved confidence levels, self-image, relationships with their parents, students and teachers, and having a clearer understanding of their future. These are the building blocks that make for a resilient, self-reliant and emotionally intelligent young person.

It is further reported that the number of program graduates classed as having a high risk of developing a mental health disorder was reduced by 28 per cent last year alone. Programs like this that seek to prevent the development of mental health issues arising later in life require greater investment by all levels of government. The old adage 'prevention is better than a cure' is apt in this scenario. Economic returns on investing in the sorts of social-emotional learning skills that Youth Opportunities engender in young people is projected to be $11 for every dollar spent.

One Nation believes that this is an area where more focus and funding ought to be directed, rather than favouring investment to fix mental health crises after they have taken hold. Thank you to the honourable member for introducing this motion to the chamber. I congratulate Youth Opportunities on their 25th anniversary and thank them for their valuable contribution to the lives of 15,000 South Australian young people and counting.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:10): I thank the Hon. Russell Wortley and the Hon. Sarah Game for their wonderful contributions. I am sure that Youth Opportunities will really appreciate their support. I commend the motion.

Motion carried.