Source: The Mercury, 17 December, 1997, p.12
By KATE HANNON Soclal Issues Writer ONE in every 100 of Australia's youth is like- ly to be assaulted by the time they are 25 years old. Young Australians are more likely to be victims of crime than their elders and make up a very high pro- portion of offenders in our prison system. Those not in trouble are generally healthier and while the proportion of our youth who smoke and drink heavily has fallen they still smoke more than their elders. The figures are part of an Australian Bureau of Stat- istics study of the nation's youth which reveals a gener- ally better educated group but one which will face more bouts of unemployment. Australia's young people are less inclined to worry about the environment as they did in the 1980s and are more concerned about rising crime rates and joblessness. They are living at home longer with their parents and staying longer in school, while one in five is totally dependent on their parents. Australia's youth are half as likely to marry as their counterparts of 1986 and more likely to wait until their mid to late 20s before taking the plunge. The trend towards casual and part-time work mostly in retail trades means those who do have work receive less take-home pay. Although the number of 18 to 25-year-olds as a pro- portion of the prison popu- lation has fallen from 39% in 1985 to 29% 10 years later, they are still over- represented. Principle criminologist at the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Sat Mu- kherjee, said part of the rea- son for the fall was that the average age of offenders had risen from 29 years in 1985 to 32 years now. The biggest declines in the proportion of youth in jails were in NSW and Victoria where tougher sentencing had been in force since the early 1990s. Dr Mukherjee said this meant a swelling of prison populations with older, re- peat offenders. The ABS report reinforced the seriousness of the role of suicide and violence in the deaths of young people. In 1996, young men died at three times the rate of young women with accidents, poisonings and violence ac- counting for 76% of young male deaths and 56% of young female deaths. Car accidents accounted for 30% of deaths and suicide for 22%. "In the last 10 to 12 years the number of road deaths have declined very signifi- cantly but the accident rate of young men is increasing," Dr Mukherjee said. Older people had become more careful and they tended to drink and drive less be- cause of random breath test- ing. "Cars are much more powerful now, they can do much more than in the past, they think they can control it and somehow they lose con- trol," Dr Mukherjee said. Nine out of 10 violent crimes were committed by young men and mostly men against men. Young women were fre- quently assault victims but their rate of attack increased in the case of sexual assault. Crime along with unem- ployment were the issues of the most concern.
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