Report published: Young adults’ experiences with Australian public services

In 2020, a large team of researchers at Monash, led by Prof Steve Roberts and I, undertook a national study of young people’s experiences with public services in Australia. The project was funded by and in partnership with the Australian Public Service, and the findings from the study went on to underpin the national Youth Policy Framework. We are very pleased that the report, initially intended only for internal APS use, has now been made public.

Access it via the Australian Analysis & Policy Observatory (APO) here:

Via the Monash Bridges site here:

And see a write up on the report in Government News featuring our Project Manager Dr Ben Lyall here:

Report title: Young adults’ experience with Australian public services

A report by Monash University, in partnership
with the Australian Catholic University – proudly
supported by the Australian Public Service

Co-Directors: A/Prof Brady Robards and Prof Steven Roberts

Project Manager & Research Fellow: Dr Ben Lyall

Chief Investigators: Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves, Dr Zareh Ghazarian, Dr Jonathan Smith (ACU), Dr Jacqueline Laughland-Booÿ (ACU), Dr Verity Trott, Prof Jo Lindsay

Research Assistants: Dr Chiara De Lazzari, Dr Madeleine Ulbrick, Dr Sarah Hewitt, Patrick Marple, William Lukamto. Callum Jones

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.