The Youth Coalition of the ACT and Families ACT recently hosted an election forum in the lead up to the October 20 ACT poll. Sector representatives, interested members of the public and politicians, attended the event held at the Belconnen Community Centre theatre.

Member for Ginninderra, Meredith Hunter (@MeredithMLA) addressed the forum committing the Greens to fixing what has gone wrong with recent government reforms.  The spokesperson for young people says they will work with the sector to rebuild and identify gaps, and start doing something about it.

“We will allocate $1.2 million to youth engagement programs per year, in response to a request put out by Families ACT and Youth Co. This is an area that has really suffered under the reforms”, she said.

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The member is referring to the ACT government’s process that began in March 2010 of merging the then Youth Services Program and the Family Support Program. To separate programs providing much needed funds to many of
the community-based services throughout the territory.

The new, merged entity – the Child, Youth and Family Services Program was introduced from March 1st this year and has restructured the youth and family sector. New services have been introduced and some existing services closed.

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The Greens MLA also described the government’s announcement in May of the removal of up to $1.4 million over three years from vital community services to fund other projects as “mean spirited”.

In response to concerns raised over the permanent closing or restricted operating hours of some Canberra Youth centres, Minister for Young People, Joy Burch (@JoyBurchMLA) advised the forum that she recognises there’s been significant reforms in the sector.

“The reforms that have taken place have led to a period of stability”, she said.

“The dust is still settling on some of those reforms however, there is no doubt about that”.

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“The ALP has a strong track record of providing support to the vulnerable in our community. The Community Services Directorate is the cornerstone of society because it’s the directorate that, in many ways, holds the vulnerable families, individuals and those that are at risk of being disengaged”, the Minister said.

But Liberal Member for Ginninderra, Alistair Coe (@alistair_coe) disagrees.

“There’s a difference in philosophy in what the minister said that housing and community services is the cornerstone of society. I actually believe the community is the cornerstone of society not government.

“The people the government serves are actually the cornerstone of society. That change of philosophy is so important to an actual commitment to outcomes, not just processors”, the Shadow Minister for Youth said.

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Those involved in the youth and community sectors have been left in a transition period, while struggling to work out how to continue to provide valuable and quality services and support to young people and their families.

Youth Coalition of the Act

The Youth Coalition of the ACT (@youthco_act) is Canberra’s peak body and voice for young people and those that work with them.  They recently undertook the biggest survey ever done of youth in the ACT. Greens MLA, and former Executive Officer of Youth Co, Meredith Hunter has congratulated the youth affairs body for the survey, that’s become the source of valuable information in developing future policy for the sector.

Check out the Youth Co’s Survey of Young People aged 12–25 in the ACT.

Youth Co regularly undertakes independent research on issues involving Canberra’s young people. Their aims are to develop policy, conduct inquiries, reviews and consultations to support the youth sector and drafting submissions and strategic advice for government.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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