Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — To say that the Geelong community is passionate about the Geelong Project would be a serious understatement. Headlines in the Geelong Advertiser such as ‘Don’t let our kids down’, ‘Outrage at cuts to youth program’, ‘Youth funding cut a tragedy’ and ‘Project axe blasted’ mirror the community’s reaction to the Napthine government’s decision. That reaction has been made clear also in the significant number of letters and text messages sent in to the Geelong Advertiser. An open letter to the Premier signed by 24 community organisations, including a representative from the Greater Geelong Council — the acting Geelong mayor — school principals, G21, community support agencies and health organisations also raised immediate concerns about the decision.
The minister’s feeble attempt to justify the decision based on the program not hitting targets is as disgraceful as the decision itself. During the pilot phase of the program 95 young people were engaged and homelessness and school disengagement were identified as a high risk. Of those 95 young people 100 per cent have remained engaged in school, increased engagement or returned to school and 100 per cent have retained or obtained safe sustainable accommodation.
In regard to the government’s decision, Associate Professor David Mackenzie of Swinburne University said:
“In more than 20 years involvement in homelessness research and policy, I don’t think I have ever come across a government decision that is so obviously bad and destructive of what is an outstanding example of innovation and support for vulnerable young people and their families.”