Call for targeted measures to address pandemic's impact on young people

25 July 2022
Taskforce recommendations to help our young generation get back on track
A high-powered taskforce led by the Sydney Policy Lab has called for the the federal government to introduce active measures to drive a 'generational catch-up' for young people, who have been disproportionately disadvantaged from the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The ‘Open Society, Common Purpose Taskforce’ of eminent academics and leaders of business and civil society has recommended the federal government establish a Youth Fund, modelled on the Future Fund, which would invest strategically in children and younger Australians. The focus would primarily centre on mental health.

The taskforce, which today releases its second report, ‘The Great Australian Renovation’, states an independent, representative youth body is needed to provide advice to elected representatives on this issue. Also needed is a review of the role of school closures in pandemic response plans, with analysis of the educational and health costs of such decisions on children.

Polling conducted by Essential Research* for the Sydney Policy Lab finds that 42 percent support the creation of the national youth body, with just 21 percent opposed.

The polling shows strong support for post-pandemic recovery measures to build government integrity:

  • Implementing a stricter code of conduct for federal politicians (67 percent support).
  • Appoint an Integrity Minister to the Federal Cabinet (57 percent support).
  • Introduction of annual reporting on equality, community well-being, sustainability and social cohesion (52 percent support).

Tim Soutphommasane, Co-Chair of the Taskforce and Acting Director of the Sydney University Policy Lab, says “The pandemic has shown us that we must give young people a louder public voice. We must also make more significant investments in their needs.

“We note the new government’s election platform included a similar commitment and we urge the government to make it a national priority.”

“We also need a review of the school closures during the pandemic – including the impact on education, social development, and their wider wellbeing.

“This is a comprehensive report that shows we have a lot to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to invest in young people as a first priority so that we can equalise the impacts of the pandemic.”

Mark Rigotti, Taskforce Co-Chair, said the Taskforce's report should set a roadmap to rebuilding a stronger Australia.

 “Children and young people have sacrificed enormously to keep their parents and grandparents from harm for over two years now.

“They are the forgotten heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s time for Australia to give back and help our youngest generations get back on track for their future.

“Their lack of a public voice meant their needs were often placed second to those of adults, robbing them of important life experiences and development opportunities, with potentially long-term costs to their welfare. This must not be allowed to happen again.

“The budget in October is an important opportunity to repay the sacrifices of our young people. This looks like a national fund of money that’s governed by young people and will have the aim of creating genuine equal opportunity and improved wellbeing,” Mr Rigotti said.

The independent ‘Open Society, Common Purpose Taskforce’ is made up of experts and leaders from across business, academic and civil society including:

  • Mark Rigotti, Taskforce Co-Chair and Managing Director. CEO – Designate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Tim Soutphommasane, Co-Chair of the Taskforce and Acting Director of the Sydney University Policy Lab
  • Prof Ben Marais (Co-Director, Sydney Institute of Infectious Diseases, The University of Sydney)
  • Gabriel Metcalf (CEO, Committee for Sydney)
  • Violet Roumeliotis AM (CEO, Settlement Services International)
  • Jo Schofield (President, United Workers Union)
  • Prof Marc Stears (Director, Policy Lab, University College London)
  • Prof Maree Teesson AC (Director, Matilda Centre for Mental Health, The University of Sydney)
  • Geoffrey Winters (CEO, Just Reinvest NSW)

The taskforce report has 12 recommendations spanning:

  • Investing in our young people
  • Giving children and young people a say
  • Understanding the needs of young Australians
  • Reviewing the decision to close schools
  • A Minister for Integrity and Accountability
  • Renewing multiculturalism and anti-racism
  • Improving scientific literacy and communication
  • More cooperative national leadership
  • Parliament setting an example
  • Building engagement and capability across civil society
  • Improving the conduct of our election campaigns
  • Measuring more than just GDP

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