The project is designed as a longitudinal, qualitative study that runs over two years, with interviews scheduled every six months. I recruited 31 young women (aged 15–25) for the first wave of interviews in Victoria, Australia. Each participant has been asked to take part in up to five interviews. Some participants have left the study along the way, meaning that around 18 participants will have participated in all five interviews.

The 31 participants in the first wave of the study were predominantly recruited through service providers assisting young people looking to reengage with education and/or work, typically referred on by Centrelink. In addition, some participants were recruited from a regional service hub for young people and some were not in touch with any service provider and were recruited via a Facebook ad targeted at young women who had left school before finishing Year 12.

The participants were aged 15–24 at the time of the first interview. Twenty-five out of these 31 women had not finished Year 12. Out of the remaining six participants, four were studying at university level, one had finished Year 12 four years earlier and was still looking for what to do next, and one was enrolled in Year 12 at the time of the interview. There are significant differences within this group in terms of when the participants left school – some left during Year 12, while others stopped attending already in Year 9 or 10. The participants are from a mix of social backgrounds. While a couple of participants’ parents held jobs that require higher education degrees, the majority spoke of parents who worked in unskilled or low-skill jobs (bus/truck drivers, supermarket/retail, cleaning) or who were unemployed.

Each interview had a different thematic and analytical focus while also making sure to follow up on changes since the last interview with regard to housing, education/work, friends, partners, family etc. The first interview focused on the participants’ biographical experiences and drew on a life chart exercise, while the second focused on space and belonging and included a mapping exercise. The third interview asked participants to bring two objects to the interview to explore memories and imagined futures. The fourth interview included a photo voice task, where participants were asked to bring photos to the interview, and the fifth and last interview made use of a playdough modelling task to explore imagined futures from a different vantage point. These methods are described in detail on the Creative Methods page.

The research focuses on three different locations, two on the urban fringe of Melbourne and one in a regional area around two hours/160km from Melbourne. While both locations on the urban fringe have easy access to Melbourne, the city with its opportunities in terms of education, work and leisure is beyond commuter distance for the participants living in the regional location. All three locations are undergoing socio-economic change, labour market restructuring and higher than average unemployment rates.

The research follows conventional social science ethical guidelines, including seeking informed, processual consent for one interview at a time. For participants under the age of 18, a parent/guardian was asked to give their consent as well, except for a few instances where participants were estranged from their parents/guardians. In these cases, the National Guidelines state that young people aged 16 and over can decide for themselves if they want to participate in the research. Participants received a $30 voucher to a supermarket after each interview as an acknowledgment of their time and effort. Names and other identifying characteristics are changed to ensure the anonymity of the participants. The research is approved by University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee (Ethics number 1749134.3).

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

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