Page 266 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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environment and good mental wellbeing. Nature journal published research in 2019 that two hours per week spent in nature is associated with less mental distress and better wellbeing.

We have seen a real increase in concern about climate change by young people in the ACT in recent years. The 2019 Mission Australia youth survey showed that the top two issues facing Australia for ACT young women were the environment, at 55.7 per cent, and mental health, at 40.8 per cent. For ACT young men, the top two issues were the environment, at 55.1 per cent, and mental health, at 24.8 per cent. In 2020 the Mission Australia youth survey, which was conducted after the onset of the COVID pandemic, found that ACT young women said the top three issues facing Australia were equity and discrimination, at 50.9 per cent; environment, at 38.2 per cent; and mental health, at 33.8 per cent. For young men, the top three issues were COVID-19, at 44.1 per cent; equity and discrimination, at 38.4 per cent; and environment was still there at 33.5 per cent.

On 1 December 2021 the most recent Mission Australia youth survey was released. Despite the COVID pandemic still going on, people are still worried about the environment. ACT young women said that the top three issues facing Australia were COVID-19, at 49.4 per cent; equity and discrimination, at 48.2 per cent; and the environment, at 45.8 per cent. For young men it was COVID-19, at 50.4 per cent; the environment, at 40.6 per cent; and equity and discrimination, at 33.5 per cent. This tells me a lot about why young people are having such a hard time with their mental wellbeing at the moment.

Worries about the pandemic have not replaced their worries about the environment; they have added to it, and what we are seeing is a layering-up of the worries for young people about their future. This is why they are out there physically demonstrating how important the environment and climate action are to their mental wellbeing, through things like climate strikes and our legal system, and in volunteering for things like Landcare and other environment groups.

Mission Australia’s youth survey report from 2021 shows that 16.1 per cent of ACT young people reported participating in environmental groups and activities. The 2019 report also talks about the benefits for mental wellbeing of young people when they are able to participate in events that allow them to express their views, like going on a climate strike. Climate anxiety is a very real and growing issue. It taps into this existential crisis that a lot of young people are feeling about their future, and which the pandemic is now adding to. If we want to support young people who are experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing, we have a real responsibility to act on these global existential threats.

There are things that the ACT government is doing that will help young people who are experiencing mental wellbeing issues in relation to how they are feeling about a healthy environment. We have seen that through the introduction of things like the ACT’s MindMap portal to help young people navigate their mental health and find support, if that is what they need. But as Ms Clay said earlier today when she was talking about our changing climate increasing the storm events in Canberra, we cannot look at how we respond to the effects of climate change only after it happens. We can

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