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Dave

Dave Stevens

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: Western Australia Education > General
Social Welfare > General
To address root causes of disengagement of 'at-risk' students with reference to family dysfunction - USA, Canada, UK
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The report outlines the different institutions and individuals that were visited, not only giving a snapshot of their programs and intentions but also highlighting areas of learning gleaned from the time spent with the hosts.

The areas of dysfunction with Australian youths appears to be very similar to the cohorts I met in first world countries visited. Mental health issues, anxiety and depression and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness are growing or becoming more visible.

Information gathered indicated that young people are engaging in a variety of different practices that are leading to addiction, drug and alcohol being the obvious, but gaming, pornography and social media are also proving to be problematic.

Some research is showing that addiction may not be blamed solely on a biological propensity to the substance or environment. It is being suggested that chronic isolation and individualism are causing people to seek temporary relief in drugs or any number of other habits. Humans need “bonding’. So the opposite to addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

Major research in the UK is pointing to the notion that healthy relationships are the key to not only good education but the long term wellbeing of students. As a rule, schools do not measure their own relational ability as an organization or the relationships within the school community. Currently, education does not appear to be measuring a student’s ability to form or manage relationships at any point in their educational lifetime and yet the essence of our society is relational. Conversations suggested that there is a strong correlation between mental health issues and social isolation. 

If relational thinking is the key to societal change then government policy, educational outcomes and community focus need to develop and include social or relational capital within its measurement matrices. All levels of Australian society would need to shift from measuring and valuing the simple financial bottom line and focus attention on the more complex social and relational indicators. It could be suggested that youth disengagement and family dysfunction will continue to grow unless all aspects of government, industry, education and the wider society embrace a move from an individualistic mindset to a relational way of thinking.

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