Young people’s perspectives during the COVID-19 lockdown

In just a matter of days, we have seen a monumental shift in the way we live our lives and for young people across Victoria, the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on youth employment, mental health and wellbeing, and access to support services. As employers and educational institutions are forced to close their doors, young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, in particular, are increasingly at risk of being left behind.

A young person who is currently in CMY’s Employment Empowers program (who preferred to stay anonymous) shares her experience during this time. She’s a university student who is currently working casually in an aged care facility. While she says she feels lucky to still have employment, her shift has been cut to less than 12 hours a week and she doesn’t think she will be able to get financial assistance.

“I am a bit confused about who is eligible (for the JobKeeper payments) at the moment and I don’t know how to apply for it. There is too much paperwork and requirements to look through, and I’ve had bad experiences trying to get rental support in the past so I’m turned off. I don’t think I’m eligible because I haven’t worked longer than 12 months,” she says.

“Considering how the virus has affected everyone, I’m thankful I have a job. I’m earning just enough to pay the rent and afford some essentials,” she says.

Frances, a young person from CMY’s Le Mana Pasifika program, says “I’m not working at the moment as I’m a casual teacher and schools have shut. I applied for youth allowance under Centrelink a few weeks before the shutdown, but it’s been delayed.”

Frances says while it has been a struggle financially and her bills have already been piling up, for her and her family it’s the emotional burden that has been paramount.

“I’m trying to stay positive but I do have a family member who has the virus and is in a bad condition. It’s impacted my family a lot emotionally. All we want to do is fly to America and be with her, so that makes it very hard. At this point, it’s a matter of being patient, there are probably a lot of people worse off than me.”

CMY’s Community Support Group (CSG) stays open for the South Sudanese community who need support, on an appointment-only basis. Program Manager Archangelo Nyuol Madut says the community faces unique challenges as many of them come from large families and have little to no digital access at home.

“The loss of jobs has put many families in financial stress as often young people help their families generate income. The younger kids are at home and have fewer activities to engage with, as school holiday programs and sporting activities have been cancelled. They don’t have access to online platforms that can keep them engaged,” he says, adding further pressure on families.

The shift to online learning and communication during the shutdown severely impacts young people who may have limited internet access at home, have little support available to them and who may come from families with low literacy levels and English as an additional language.

Check out our COVID-19 page for information and resources to support young people.