Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Youth Employment

7:24 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | Hansard source

with new fees for TAFE, higher fees for university and HELP repayments, as well as cutting programs like Youth Connections that help young people to get a job. And that is what I want to talk about tonight, Youth Connections or Joblink, as it is often called in my home state. This organisation provides a vital service to the community; it is designed to assist young people who are most at risk of leaving school or who have already done so. Services are flexible and include one-to-one support for all eligible young people. The goal is to help young people to overcome the barriers and problems that make it difficult to stay in, or return to, school or training. The organisation also works cooperatively with other service providers in their local region to improve the support available for young people. Providers welcome referrals from many sources including young people themselves, family members, friends, teachers, training providers, Centrelink and other community organisations.

Out of 25 people who sought assistance from Joblink in northern Tasmania, 18 recently graduated from TAFE. This important organisation provides individuals with hope and real strategies to get back on their feet so they can find a job or continue with their education.

What does this government do to this organisation and what does it do to Youth Connections across the country? It cuts their funding. Youth Connections was created by Labor in 2010 to ensure young people do not fall between the cracks and end up unemployed or dependent on welfare, all of which is now at risk as a result of the Abbott government's $1.7 million cut to Youth Connections funding. If someone drops out of school because of family problems, an unwanted pregnancy or for any other reason, it is incredibly important they be given a second chance to re-start their education. Completing high school is an essential part of gaining meaningful employment and earning a wage. Youth Connections helps more than 750 young Tasmanians a year, and since 2010 it has helped more than 1400 young people in northern Tasmania alone to get back on the path to finishing school.

Despite these results, the Abbott government has failed to commit any finding to the program beyond 2014—potentially forcing the seven Tasmanian Youth Connection locations to close their doors at year's end. The Prime Minister and his three amigos—Bass MP Mr Nikolic; Lyons MP Mr Hutchison; and Braddon MP Mr Whiteley—are completely walking away from Youth Connections and from the thousands of young people the program supports each year. They are doing this when they know Tasmania has the highest unemployment rate in Australia at 17.5 per cent, up from the 15 per cent when this Prime Minister took office—this is negligence of the highest order.

Wouldn't you think that in order to tackle this escalating youth unemployment, they would be inclined to invest further in Youth Connections? It would seem logical, surely. But clearly not according to this government. Last week the shadow assistant minister for higher education, Amanda Rishworth, and myself visited Joblink and met with two very passionate members of the community, Lisa Amerikanos and Emma Dickenson, who help at-risk youth every single day to turn their lives around to make their future brighter. We know from Senate estimates that the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, has not even asked his department for advice about the importance of programs that make sure young people complete school and move into work. These services, are particularly important to Tasmania. The Prime Minister came down to our state and promised 'Jobs, jobs, jobs' before the election, but his solution now is to tell young people of Tasmania to leave the state. Well, Mr Abbott, that is not acceptable to the Tasmanian community, and it is not acceptable for our young people. I am calling on those three amigos to ride into town and stand up to Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne to ensure that that funding is reinstated and, in fact, that it is increased., because it is a project that has 80 per cent success rate. There is not another program that comes anywhere near it, and to lose it would be a shame and an indictment on this government.


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