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By Ashleigh Armstrong
9 May 2019

For the past six months, UNICEF Australia’s Young Ambassadors have been asking children and young people in Australia (from three to 22 years) what they think about the country they’re growing up in.

On topics like mental health, offshore processing and climate change, Australia’s young people have a lot to say.

I think every adult should know:

"That children can understand today's issues."

12-year-old girl, Victoria

This is what Australia’s young people want you to know:

1. The Environment

We’re not doing enough for the environment. Young people associate the environment with ‘death’ and ‘litter’ and think we are threatening our world. They want action, care and decisions that work towards a cleaner future. 

childs drawingJet, 9, NSW

2. Equality

They wanted "adults to know what it's like to be treated like they don't belong here" - Finbarr, 13, VIC. They also want adults to know that they are aware of how others are treated. They do not think the treatment of people in off-shore detention is right. They also think that men should do more domestic work, and that people from lower socio-economic and culturally diverse backgrounds are not given enough respect. 

I think every adult should know:

"Giving all people equal opportunity no matter their race, gender or past experiences. It is so unfair that a person is judged on the money and the place they are born into."

Alexandra, 16, NSW

3. Rights

Young people want equal rights, and to be treated as individuals. 

I think decision-makers should:

"Help people be themselves and be happy being themself and not be scared to be different."

Mackenzie, 10, NSW

4. Health & wellbeing

The concept of well-being is broad and includes healthy foods, physical activity, emotions and mental health. They want adults to be comfortable starting conversations about mental health. 

writing by childTharushi, 12, NSW

5. Family 

‘Mum’ and/or ‘Dad’ make them feel safe. In almost every consultation the first response to ‘who makes you feel safe’ was Mum and Dad.

Harry, "9 turning 10", NSW
Harry, "9 turning 10", NSW
© UNICEF Australia

6. Culture

Young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds expressed a desire to understand their culture more. 

I think every adult should know:

"Culture is important and should be taught at a young age."

Alex, 12, NSW
Ash with children in class
Ash conducting conversations with children in schools in Sydney.
© UNICEF Australia

7. School

School has evolved over time to become more stressful, and young people want change. Children aged 10 were asking to change the high school curriculum to reflect their real-world needs. 

Childs writing on paper.
Kaela, 10, NSW
© UNICEF Australia

8. To be heard

But most of all, children want you to know that they want a voice. They want to share their opinions and have the opportunity to be heard. They are not asking to make all the decisions, but merely to be listened to as members of society.

I think every adult should know:

"That children should be heard more often because in some areas, they have better ideas."

Rosie, 11, WA

9. Thank you

Finally, young people want to thank adults for all they have done and the opportunities they have created for future generations.

I think every adult should know:

"We are thankful for the hardships you endured to give us what we have today, and we thank you for your time and effort in getting us to the place in progress in which we are in today.

That we have a voice and are also able to make change, albeit more quietly or slowly. We have ideas that could have great influence on the world, the world which we will inherit in the future." - Christina, 16, ACT

"That we as the children and youth are grateful for the work you put in to ensure we get the best life we can."

Christina, 16, ACT