Academic journal article Rural Society

Policy Considerations for Moderating Welfare Dependency Amongst Rural Youth

Academic journal article Rural Society

Policy Considerations for Moderating Welfare Dependency Amongst Rural Youth

Article excerpt

Introduction

The education and training opportunities traditionally presented to regional young Australians were, and continue to be, the subject of much interest and debate (Buckby 1999; Department of Education, Science and Training [DEST] 2003; Griffith 1996). The past decade in particular has borne witness to government and nongovernment organisations commissioning many reports and research studies investigating this concern. Reports and studies such as the Kenyon report (2001) and Tasmania's Rural and Isolated Young People: Issues, Solutions andStrategiesby the Tasmanian Office of Youth Affairs and Family (1998) were charged with specifically investigating the education and employment needs of young men and women in rural Australia. They consistently recommended a review of policy and program development in relation to the provision of vocational education and training to Australia's rural youth population.

These reports have illustrated how the opportunity, or lack thereof, to participate in the local community through education, vocational training or employment can significantly affect the future security and prosperity of young people (see e.g. Anglicare 2004). The inability to participate in community based activities can lead young people to become disconnected from society, where they feel they do not belong and are unable to contribute in a meaningful way. This disconnection can often result in a higher risk of unemployment, unstable short-term employment, an increased chance of homelessness and an increase in the incidence of suicide for the individual (Department of Education, Youth and Family Services [DEYFS] 2002).

Research, including Wyn, Stokes and Stafford (1998) and Spierings (1998) suggests those people who leave compulsory education prior to completion of at least Year 10 are at a greatly increased risk of becoming socially disconnected. This research indicated the young people who most suffer from social disadvantage were the least likely to complete compulsory education (Department of Employment, Education and Training 1990), for example: those who live in rural areas, with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, women, those from non-English speaking backgrounds and low-income families.

The social policy map in the DEST (2003) Triennial Research Plan 2003-2006 carries the declaration that the future of the Australian nation depends upon all Australians having the necessary education, training and learning ability to lead productive and fulfilling lives. This policy map contends that the future of Australian society depends on a national ability to apply knowledge which supports innovation, stimulates business development and improves workplace productivity.

DEST (2003) developed focus questions (included in the Triennial Research Plan 2003-2006) to encourage further social research on improving educational programs to meet the needs of all Australians. They included:

* What are the key influences on individuals' choices and outcomes in relation to education, training and future career

* What are the incentives and barriers to learning at work? What supports or undermines effective learning in the workplace?

* What role does the adult and community education sector play in skilling individuals for full economic and social participation?

(DEST 2003: 24)

The above questions presented by DEST have provided the impetus for this current research which seeks to inform and progress current thought. This research used these questions to examine the development and ongoing effectiveness of welfare policy, and the social welfare programs developed from these policies, in moderating welfare dependency amongst youth in the regional centre of Orange in rural New South Wales.

The results further current understanding on the needs of rural youth from the perspectives of young people. The paper suggests how government driven policy might best be implemented to minimise the risk of young people not achieving satisfactory outcomes from education and training and becoming dependent on welfare programs. …

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