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Mental health and perceptions of safety remain key concerns for WA children and young people

Mental health and perceptions of safety are key concerns raised by more than 16,000 children and young people who participated in WA’s Speaking Out Survey 2021.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit has tabled the second Speaking Out Survey in Parliament today.

The 2021 survey found that WA’s children and young people reported generally positive outcomes, showing great resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The majority of children and young people reported that they are physically and mentally healthy, their material needs are met and they like school,” Mr Pettit said.

“Many children and young people also say that their relationships with family, friends and teachers are positive and that they feel like they belong in their community.

“This survey captures the views of children and young people in Years 4ꟷ12 in every region of WA and who live in metropolitan, regional and remote communities.

“There is clear evidence that mental health remains a critical issue for young people, and the gender wellbeing gap continues, with female students rating their wellbeing less favourably than their male peers.

The majority of young people reported COVID-19 had only affected them ‘a little’ or ‘not at all’, however one third of students in Years 4ꟷ12 reported feeling either very or somewhat anxious or stressed about the pandemic.

Aboriginal children and young people fared less well than non-Aboriginal children in terms of material basics, family stability and expectations for further education, however were more positive about feeling safe and connected in the community, particularly in remote areas of WA.

Key findings from the Speaking Out Survey 2021 include:

  • 15 per cent of WA children and young people rated their health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’.
  • 2-in-3 Aboriginal students reported knowing their family’s country.
  • A quarter of WA’s female high school students report poor life satisfaction.
  • One-third of high school students don’t know where to get mental health support.
  • 8% of students said there is only sometimes enough food for them to eat at home, with 1% saying there is never enough food.
  • More than half of male students and one-third of female students play electronic games every day.
  • 52 per cent of boys and 36 per cent of girls in Years 9-12 said they have been physically harmed on purpose.
  • 45 per cent of high school students are regularly in contact online with people they have not met face-to-face.
  • 29 per cent of high school students do not feel like they belong at their school.
  • 13 per cent of high school students feel they cannot talk to their parents about their problems or worries.

The Speaking Out Survey directly links to the Commissioner’s role to research the wellbeing needs of children and young people and to have their views heard.

All fieldwork for the Speaking Out Survey was undertaken by the Commissioner’s staff in schools with the support of the Department of Education, the Association of Independent Schools WA and Catholic Education WA and student responses were anonymous.

“I thank all three of WA’s education sectors, all of the schools and most importantly, every young person who took part in the Speaking Out Survey,” Mr Pettit said.

“The aim in collecting these insights from young people is to use their views to improve the services, supports and policies that support their wellbeing.

“We cannot understand how best to support children and young people without first listening to them.”

With grant funding from Lotterywest, the Speaking Out Survey will be extended to reach young people in special education and additional young people in remote communities, with findings to be released in 2022.