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This year’s National Youth Week is held from the March 31 to April 9. The week is designed to recognise and celebrate “the diverse skills, knowledge and ideas contributed to our society by young people”. Throughout the week, various activities for young people are held such as photography workshops, African drumming workshops, youth epilepsy support events, youth mental health events, skating workshops, running events, among many other events across Australia. 

The event started in 1989 in New South Wales and became national in 2000. But the 2015 budget cut all funding for Youth Week from June of this year, so this will be the last National Youth Week.

But what glorious gifts has the Turnbull government given to the young in their swan song week of weeks?

[Super for housing: the latest example of our war on the young]

Days before Youth Week, the federal government tried to pass a bill to put people aged 22 to 24 on the Youth Allowance, rather than the Newstart Allowance — this would reduce their payments. 

Some 55% of Newstart recipients and 51% of Youth Allowance recipients are at risk of poverty, according to the Australian Council of Social Service’s (ACOSS) report, Poverty in Australia, in 2012. 

The Huffington Post pointed out that the politicians who are trying to implement these measures receive $276 per night for accommodation in Canberra. Politicians can also claim up to $19,500 per annum of electorate allowance to meet the costs of transport within, and for the service of, the electorate. This is on top of a politician’s base wage of $195,130 per year. In comparison, a Newstart recipient receives $267 a week. 

In the same bill, the government also tried to pass a mandatory four-week wait for people applying for Youth Allowance. This idea was proposed by the Abbott government in 2015, but the bill failed to pass because there was no evidence that a four-week waiting period would actually help young people find work.

Speaking to Crikey, the CEO of Youth Action Katie Acheson asked how people not receiving any source of income were meant to “get on the bus to get that job interview; how are they going to be able to buy the clothes to be able to look for work, let alone have a roof over their head and feed themselves? The government is expecting them to live on air.”

[Minimum wage rise wasted on women, says government]

But wait, there’s more! Youth week “celebrations” continue with the implementation of the internship program “PaTH“. The program doesn’t “guarantee young people a job” and it will potentially put young people in a “worse position” because they will be losing money by doing an internship that pays far below the minimum wage, says Acheson.

The government will pay businesses $1000 to take on an intern as part of the PaTH program. Interns will be payed $200 a fortnight on top of their current dole payments. If an intern works for 10 to 25 hours per week, for four to 12 weeks, they will earn between $10 and $4 an hour, which is far below minimum wage.

 “This program is basically a free handout to big business,” the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Ged Kearney told Crikey. “It’s a hare-brained idea”.

Kearney says every policy the government creates gives a “leg up to the wealthy end of town and at the expense of investing in our young people”.

At least we’ll always have our feta and smashed avo.

Peter Fray

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