Opinion | Let’s continue to build resilience in our kids

First published in The Daily Telegraph on 03 June 2022. Reproduced with permission.

In his election victory speech, Anthony Albanese made the point that every parent wants more for the next generation than they had.

He added no one should be left behind because we should always look after the disadvantaged and the vulnerable and he wants every parent to be able to tell their child that no matter where you live or where you come from, in Australia the doors of opportunity are open to us all.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the new Prime Minister – and encourage his government to put young Australians at the centre of their efforts to ensure no-one is left behind.

For the past 50 years, Peer Support Australia has been rolling out proven youth wellbeing programs in schools to help young Australians learn the skills they need to cope with an increasingly unpredictable and uncertain world.

We know the pandemic lockdowns hit young people particularly hard and led to dramatic increases in depression and isolation.

A survey of 20,000 teenagers, by the charity Mission Australia, found that half were suffering mental health prob- lems due to the two-year pandemic.

From bushfires to floods, droughts, global health emergencies and dire warnings of climate disaster, there is a lot thrown at young people and we owe it to them to prepare them for an uncertain future.

Many young Australians really don’t have enough experience in the memory bank to realise that things do eventually get better – because they haven’t seen a silver lining in the past few years.

Peer Support Australia welcomes the new government’s strong commitment to support the wellbeing of young Australians through its proposed Student Wellbeing Boost.

The Boost recognises the significant impact the pandemic has had on young Australians and aligns closely with the objectives of the Peer Support Program that operates in around 1000 schools across Australia.

This program supports young people to strengthen their social and emotional skills to successfully navigate chal- lenges as they arise in their lives and we are looking forward to working with the new government on supporting more young people.

And, given the scale of the youth mental health crisis being seen in Australia, we need to dramatically widen the net to ensure we are capturing many more young people in crisis.

The Peer Support Program empowers young people to support each other and contribute positively to their school and community.

I want to see it in more schools around the country.

Placing students at the centre of their learning, we empower them with practical skills and strategies to posi- tively navigate life and relationships.

Peer Support Australia provides schools with professional development, support and guidance to address school-wide wellbeing and implement our programs.

Teachers say the program helps stu- dents form strong cross-grade relation- ships, improve their social problem- solving ability and build a stronger sense of connection and belonging.

After the difficulties of the past two years for young people in Australia, it has never been more important to prioritise wellbeing and build resilience in students and we look forward to working with the new government on achieving this.

Samantha Brown is the CEO of Peer Support Australia