After years of calling for the reinstatement of a Youth Minister, Federal Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, has welcomed the appointment of Senator Richard Colbeck to the position under Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new ministry.
Senator Colbeck will be Australia’s first Youth Minister in six years after former Prime Minister Tony Abbott axed the position in 2013.
“I have consistently lobbied for a Youth Minister since first being elected in 2016 because I felt it was unacceptable that some 2.9 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were denied a direct voice in Canberra after nearly three decades of Federal representation in Cabinet,” Rebekha said.
“So I welcome the appointment of Senator Richard Colbeck to the role and I am also pleased that his renewed portfolio sits under the Health Minister Greg Hunt,” she said.
“We know how important the issue of youth mental health is across the nation which is why I, together with my community, advocated so strongly for expanded headspace youth mental health services in Mayo.”
Back in March 2017, Rebekha introduced a motion calling on the then Turnbull Government to appoint a Youth Minister.
The motion – and her question in Question Time – fell on deaf ears with Prime Minister Turnbull saying he was honoured to lead a “thoroughly youthful Ministry” and that it would be “a mistake to imagine that only the young care about the young”.
Back then Australia’s overall youth unemployment was 13.3 per cent.
Today it is only slightly improved at 11.8 per cent with South Australia’s youth unemployment rate standing at 12.7 per cent.
“Youth unemployment should be a priority issue for the new Youth Minister,” Rebekha said.
“In particular, Senator Colbeck will need to look at underemployment which has been steadily rising for decades across the board but now stands at nearly 20 per cent of young people wanting to work more and having to cobble together multiple jobs to earn a living,” she said.
“This is unsustainable for the next generation looking to secure their economic security and buy a home.
“Beyond the Gonski 2.0 reforms, this Government also needs to look at a serious review of post-secondary education, examining not just the university sector but vocational training, traineeships and apprenticeships.”
Since first being elected in 2016, Rebekha has set up Young Mayo groups in her electorate to directly consult with local young people.
“Prior to entering politics I held a national role in youth sector so I know that young Australians struggle to engage with politics and government in general,” Rebekha said.
“I set up Young Mayo to directly consult with local young people,” she said.
“The Prime Minister’s decision to reinstate the Youth Minister position sends an important message that his Government is prepared to listen and consult directly with young people.”
Former PM Malcolm Fraser appointed the first Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs in 1978. The Ministry was axed by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013.