Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)– My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Housing, Ms Lovell, and it is in relation to an important service in Geelong called the Geelong Project, which is a community-based youth service led by Time for Youth with its partners Swinburne University of Technology, Barwon Youth and the Geelong local learning and employment network. The project aims to protect Geelong’s most vulnerable young people from becoming homeless.
On any given night in Australia more than 100 000 people are homeless, and almost half of these people are aged under 25. Approximately 465 Geelong residents are homeless on any given night. While some sleep in cars or couch surf, the latest statistics from shelters suggest that at least 150 people sleep on the streets in the Geelong region each night, and this figure includes children as young as 10. More than half of those 150 people are under 25.
The Geelong Project builds new partnerships and pathways between schools and community agencies to develop common tools and approaches to assist community sector workers. The project has a direct benefit for the Geelong region with its effective work to identify and assist young people who have issues at home and school and enable them to access support from a range of professionals. This is a reform project. It is not just an academic exercise, quite the reverse. It is a hands-on program. It is about early intervention and providing the intensive support that is required.
Everyone would concur that early intervention projects are incredibly important in making sure that our youth are not disengaged, but this project has actually been able to re-engage young school leavers with school. Most people who work in this area know this is almost impossible to do, yet this project has been successful in doing so.
I take this opportunity to read from a letter written by the mother of one of the girls involved in the project. It says:
“As a parent of a child who is currently engaged with the Geelong Project, I’d like to express my concerns at the possible closure of this incredible program …
“When my daughter first presented as a candidate for the Geelong Project she was in a state of despair and hopelessness. She was lost in a system that wasn’t able to provide her with the desperate help she needed.”
The letter refers to:
“… incidents of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and living through the panic of her running away …
“The intervention of the Geelong Project meant my daughter’s voice was finally heard …”
The action I seek is for the minister to provide me with an explanation as to the reason this very effective and valuable program has been axed by the state government, and I also ask the minister to explain what is going to happen to the more than 500 families that depend on this project at the moment. As one person described the whole situation to me today, the fact that this government has cut this funding represents nothing but mundane stupidity.