It Starts With Us: Changing the discourse of Australia’s youth unemployment

12 April 2015
YOA Founding Director, Margaret Quixley

This week is National Youth Week and I’ve been thinking a lot about the theme, ‘It starts with us’. Despite moments of misdirection and self-doubt, there have been so many instances in my relatively short working life that I look back on and think, “what an incredible experience”, or “that person changed everything”. Opportunities I have been given, where individuals or organisations have demonstrated such faith, confidence and investment in me, I have no doubt they shaped the person I have become. For that, I am definitely thankful.

Like when I was 19 and going through a particularly rough time. My best friend’s dad sat me down and told me all the reasons why I should hang in there because he “just knew” I was destined for great things. (I didn’t know whether I was or not, but his faith in me definitely helped lift my aspirations.) Or when I was 20, spending my (second) gap year working another unfulfilling job because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. A colleague 10 years my senior convinced me I had so much more to offer the world, and encouraged me to pursue higher education. Or a few years later, when my manager counselled me to take a 6 month leave of absence to follow my dream of interning at the United Nations, and not long after, the University of Melbourne offered me substantial scholarships that enabled that dream to occur. Each of these moments were critical turning points in my life, not because of what I achieved, but because of the support that others offered and the feeling of “us” that it generated. I often think about where I would be today without that organisational support or those people cheering me along.

Opportunities I have been given, where individuals or organisations have demonstrated such faith, confidence and investment in me, I have no doubt they shaped the person I have become. For that, I am definitely thankful.

I have no doubt that young people need and are deeply grateful when they receive the sort of encouragement I received. The last few years have been particularly difficult on Australia’s young people. They’re experiencing greater levels of un- and under employment and are undertaking higher levels of education and unpaid work just to get ahead. When it comes to the debate about youth unemployment, young people are often pegged in an unfavourable light. But there are thousands of young people out there doing absolutely incredible things. Fearlessly and tenaciously pursuing their dreams to help create a better world and doing so by building their own socially conscious careers with like-minded people. Like Cassie Dewar – 26 year old founder of Inspirationery – or Dan Poole – 22 year old founder of Crepes for Change – or YOA’s own Zan Fairweather, 18 year old founder of The Vantage Project, Bachelor of Karma, and author of year 12 ebook ‘Being Your Best’. Head over to the Foundation for Young Australians’ Innovation Nation and check out the hundreds of other ideas and projects by Australia’s young people who also believe “It starts with us”.

Our success relies on the shared wisdom of others.

These awesome ideas and initiatives do not occur in a vacuum. They are the result of a lot of hard work and a bit of good luck, but most importantly the support of others. Our success relies on the shared wisdom of our parents, teachers and mentors, the encouragement of our friends and peers, and the investment of institutions, organisations and employers, to foster the skills, experience and confidence we need. That’s why this National Youth Week “It starts with us” – we want to start a national conversation – a public acknowledgment of the efforts of individuals and organisations making a difference in the lives of Australia’s young people by giving them opportunities to learn, grow and shine. We know it is their belief, faith and confidence in us that truly changes outcomes for young people and creates the thoughtful, passionate and engaged leaders of tomorrow.

How to get involved:

We’re asking young Australians to share their story of ‘thanks’. It could be a blog, a short film, a tweet or a quote. Whatever it is, we want to share your story with the world, but most importantly, with those who made their impact on you. Tag the organisation or individual in your post and use the hashtag #AusSaysThanks to join in the national conversation. Don’t forget to also tag @young_opps so we can share your story too! We’ve got an awesome Thankyou prize pack lined up to give away, so check out our events page for further details and get involved today!

Margaret Quixley is the founding director of Young Opportunities Australia and a passionate advocate for the rights of young people. If you want to share your experience, information, opinion or advice on our blog, please get in touch: hello [at]

© Young Opportunities Australia 2015. All Rights Reserved.


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