1 in 6 Border youth in a jobless underclass

YOUTH unemployment in North East Victoria has reached “crisis point”, the latest federal government data shows.

Not surprisingly, Wodonga and Wangaratta have the biggest problem with the figure at 17.5 per cent — more than one in six. That is well above the Victorian average last month of 14 per cent.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence said the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the jobless rate on 15 to 24-year-olds showed a new national strategy was needed to help young people into jobs.

It said the figures were “a scandal for young people, our communities and our economy”.

The Brotherhood’s “My Chance, Our Future” campaign has the support of former News Limited chief John Hartigan who said many young Australians had been consigned to a new underclass as great losers in the global struggle for the best jobs.

Wodonga woman Sharnna Hogan has lost count of her job applications over five years.

Ms Hogan, 21, has never worked and has relied on welfare since she turned 16.

“I’m sick of relying on Centrelink. I want to own my own house and my own car,” she said.

“It’s really hard for the people who want to get out there working.”

Ms Hogan, who left school after year 9, said bottle shop, restaurant and takeaway store managers always told her they wanted someone with experience.

“They don’t give us that chance,” she said.

She dreamed of being a hairdresser, but no one would take her on as an apprentice after her TAFE course at Albury’s Riverina Institute.

After numerous rejections, she said her self-esteem had crumpled, she was unable to plan a future and struggled to pay her expenses.

“If I was working and getting paid — not from Centrelink — I’d feel a lot better,” she said.

“I think life would be a lot happier.”

Ms Hogan is now doing a course she hopes will give her a job in the building industry.

And she is still looking for part-time work.

“I hand out resumes everywhere. It’s hard to survive,” she said.

Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said the federal employment services system was failing young people.

Some job-seekers with several training certificates submitted hundreds of applications and got nowhere.

Mr Nicholson said young people often hadn’t had the chance to gain the skills, workplace know-how and qualifications businesses demanded.

The Brotherhood said a new youth jobs strategy was needed to replace the $80 million national youth connections program which was not funded beyond this year.

Mr Nicholson said the strategy should involve mentoring, vocational training and structured work experience.

Youth unemployment hit 14.8 per cent in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs — including Sunbury and Macedon Ranges — in the year to January.

The rate in the Geelong, Warrnambool and Bendigo regions was also above 13 per cent.

The nation’s three jobless hotspots are the Tasmanian region taking in Burnie and Devonport (21 per cent), Cairns (20.5 per cent) and northern Adelaide (19.7 per cent).

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