In 2020, Monash University and the Australian Catholic University partnered with the APS Reform Office in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to research young Australians' perceptions about and experiences with public services. The researchers' work engaged with almost 3,000 young people through surveys and focus groups, and was supported by secondary data sources from surveys and social media. The report also featured in the development of Australia’s Youth Policy Framework (2020).

This report presents the findings of a large-scale, mixed-methods study of youth transitions in Australia, with a particular focus on young people's experiences with public services. This research was undertaken during an unprecedented global pandemic, but also in a broader context where for the last few decades young people have been following increasingly complex, non-linear, and uncertain pathways towards adulthood. Today’s young people navigate combined stresses of education, employment, housing, and relationships, and public services are essential to support young people during these transitions. Work can be done to improve how young people enter, transition between, and exit services, to empower them on their paths into adulthood.

Young people were keen to participate, and from March to September 2020, our study involved:

  • 47 focus groups with 155 young adults from around Australia, aged 18-30.
  • 2,261 responses to a national survey of young adults, aged 18-30.
  • 30,000 social media posts, collected from Twitter, Reddit and Whirlpool.

The findings highlight nine focus areas where there is room for the APS to improve service-delivery to young Australians:

  1. Young people want to learn more about public services, so they are better prepared to engage with them. The quality of outcomes for young people - and the level of compliance for the APS - depends upon the level and reliability of information they receive.
  2. Information about services isn’t gathered from a single, APS source. Young people feel services could communicate better to avoid misinformed expectations about service interactions.
  3. Young people value digital services but can find them depersonalising. This can leave young people feeling like they are invisible and can see them look for assistance to interpret information.
  4. Young people want flexible service touch points. Along with digital options, they want the flexibility to engage on more complex issues – online, by phone, and in-person.
  5. Young people’s knowledge and experience of the APS varies by social characteristics and cultural background. This can lead some young people to feel services don’t speak to them, leading to confusion or disengagement with services.
  6. Young people who need consistent support report initial and ongoing barriers. This can lead to some vulnerable young people feeling disenfranchised and isolated – negatively impacting service interactions and outcomes.
  7. Young people report mixed experiences with third-party service providers. Because of this, young people have less confidence in service programs and are less likely to fully engage.
  8. Young people report stigma as a barrier to service engagement. As a result, young people may wait until they are in crisis before seeking support from services, or not may not access services at all.
  9. Young people feel mental health needs greater recognition. Without acknowledgement or awareness of the mental health pathways available, young people are less likely to engage with and trust services, delaying access to mental health support.
Editor's note

This research was conducted with funding from the Australian Public Service, and was primarily intended for use by Australian public servants to improve services for young people. The report was made publicly available in November 2022.

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