Hilton youth advocate receives Australia Day award

A law and social science graduate, who is a keen youth advocate, was a joint recipient of the Australia Day Council West Torrens Young Citizen of the Year 2017 award. Sean Sheehy, a social researcher and resident of Hilton in Adelaide’s western suburbs tweeted, “I’m glad people like what I do, because I love doing it.” @SeanSheehy_

Sean was educated at Tenison Woods Catholic School, Richmond, which is in the Salesian Parish of St.John Bosco and St.Aloysius, at Brooklyn Park and Richmond. Currently he is working as a project officer at the Youth Affairs Council South Australia, the peak organisation for the youth services sector in South Australia. Before that Sean worked at ShelterSA, the peak housing organisation which advocates for improved housing outcomes for all, including those disadvantaged and living on low incomes.

In his paper “Can iHelp – Technological Assistance for Young People at Risk of Homelessness”, Sean found that young people are more connected with technology and yet more vulnerable to homelessness than previous generations. He suggests that rejection and communication issues can be overcome by producing an alternative way for young people interact with services. Sean’s report concludes by recommending the development of an App that assists young people find emergency services. This has now happened.

Interestingly, Sean’s report noted that recent generations entered adulthood accompanied by affordable, secure housing and reliable employment contracts. But nowadays, young people today have few guarantees. He cites research which shows that housing is less affordable now than it was in 1980, rental contracts are shorter, and this means fewer guarantees. Therefore, short housing contracts and the growing phenomenon of causal work suggests that little security exists for the young.

In a podcast interview with ShelterSA, Sean traced his social consciousness to his family. “My interest in sort of the social aspect of things kind of starts off with the very beginning. I’ve got two quite unorthodox parents. My dad took me on tour with him up and down the east coast as a child. And my Mum runs a family day care centre from home so with the family day care centre I’ve always sort of grown up around kids that were maybe a little less fortunate than I was, a lot of them maybe left behind by their parents or their parents weren’t very loving, and so I guess ever since I was a young child and as I developed into an adult I’ve had that social conscience that people out there don’t have it as good as I do.”

By Fr Joseph Lee SDB

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