My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and it is in relation to Operation Newstart.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend several graduation ceremonies at City Hall in relation to Operation Newstart, and I have had the privilege of listening to the stories and hearing about the lives of those graduates and indeed having their input and feedback on practical measures that can impact on their lives and make a real difference.
Tonight I draw the attention of the minister to a young woman named Leah O’Brien, from Geelong, who in 2011 was having a particularly difficult time in life and was encouraged to sign up for Operation Newstart.
Leah herself said that prior to signing up to Operation Newstart her life was spiralling out of control.
She was struggling to make friends, skipping school and feeling out of control and out of hope.
Three years on, Leah’s life is well and truly back on track.
Not only is she attending school, she has also been nominated for the position of school captain at her secondary college.
Leah has stated that Operation Newstart single-handedly turned her life around, thanks to the involvement of Victoria Police.
She has said, ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today without Operation Newstart’.
This is just one personal story of many in Geelong and around the state.
An independent evaluation showed that during the three years the program ran in Geelong, 98 youths filtered through Operation Newstart, and of those, not a single one reoffended in the six months after they graduated.
The involvement of police in this program is paramount to its effectiveness, and Inspector Thexton of Victoria Police has said that the involvement of police is extremely beneficial for officers because it gives them a greater understanding of the issues young people face in our community.
However, due to the Napthine government’s cuts to police funding in Victoria the involvement in this hugely successful program will now consist of volunteer hours only.
This is a serious retrograde step, and I am confident in saying that the minister would agree, along with other members of this chamber, that the best way we can resolve youth crime is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, which is exactly what this program does.
I urge the minister to revisit the decision to rescind the involvement of members of the police in the Geelong Newstart program and to restore their ongoing involvement.
I also urge the minister to ensure that all Operation Newstart programs that have been running in the past continue to do so into the future.