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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20175

Senator LUNDY (6:51 PM) —I rise tonight to discuss the outcomes of recent events in the youth arena and, in particular, the presence of the Youth Roundtable in Parliament House only a few months ago. I raise this tonight on the basis that it is absolutely critical that not just the government but all parliamentarians have the opportunity to hear about the outcomes and recommendations of the Youth Roundtable. Shortly, I would like to work through those recommendations quite specifically.

I would like to preface my comments with a general summary of the Youth Roundtable and the way the government has approached this forum. I need to be a little historic in my reflections because the Youth Roundtable came up as the coalition's response to how young people were represented in Australia, particularly following the defunding of the Australian Youth Action Coalition, which provided a peak body for youth organisations around the country and a cohesive voice for issues confronting young people. Once that organisation was defunded, it was very clear that the coalition were proceeding with their strategy to take away the voice of anyone who opposed them and were not prepared to fund organisations that were critical of how the coalition conducted themselves.

The Youth Roundtable was then positioned by the coalition government as being the alternative consultative model or the alternative voice for young people in this country. However, the Youth Roundtable did not reflect the structure or nature of the youth peak, given that the youth peak itself clearly organised and prepared its structure and thereby its voice. Alternatively, the Youth Roundtable is very much a construct of the government. I am on the record as saying that its nature is much more that of a focus group bringing together 50 young people from around the country to discuss and explore policy issues confronting those 50 young people at the time and related specifically to their field of experience.

While much has been made of the appropriateness or otherwise of the Youth Roundtable, tonight I want to focus on the work of those 50 young people. It is an incredibly important work, despite my concerns about the structure of the Youth Roundtable. The efforts that they have put in need to be not only respected but also listened to and followed through. That is what the government said they would do. I will always persist with my concerns about the Youth Roundtable not being accessible to the wider parliament and, although I was pleased to have been given more access at last year's roundtable, I again place on the record my specific request to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Dr Kemp, and ask that the opposition shadow ministers and indeed those with portfolios on the crossbench be given the same sort of access to the young people participating in the Youth Roundtable as the government ministers are. This is a taxpayer funded forum, and I believe that all members of parliament should have the opportunity to access the insights of the 50 young people who are privileged to be involved in the program.

I would now like to turn to the recommendations of the various topic groups of the Youth Roundtable, to place them on the record, in particular the education topic group. Firstly, in relation to disability the recommendation states:

More funding for interaction programs to allow young people with disabilities to participate in mainstream education. This included increased funding for:

· Teacher's aides,

· Better resourced facilities,

· Prompt action to requests for environment modifications, greater flexibility to accommodate individual needs (ie therapy sessions) and

· Programs to support students in the transition from Primary school to high school.

With respect to vocational education and training, the general comments from the participants included:

· Start VET earlier ie year 8 or late primary school in addition to mainstream education. This allows young people to start to become aware of career pathways to get a sense of vision and direction for their future.

The recommendation states:

VET should be in all schools and receive adequate funding.

· Inconsistencies with the implementation of VET programs.

· The quality of programs often relies on the motivation of school staff and the local industry.

Recommendation 2: National marketing campaign dispelling negative images of young people participating in vocational education programs and to promote VET as being of equal value to academic education streams.

· VET needs a new image as current one carries connotations of not being as good as academic streams of education that affects enrolments.

Recommendation 3: Establishing VET program in years 11 and 12 where young people can volunteer to work for a few days a week in a supervised and supported workplace.

· Employers take responsibility for equipment and material costs.

· A National register of businesses willing to take students should be established.

They then make a general comment with respect to peer support and say:

Peer support allows young people to discuss issues of concerns not related to the school curriculum with older peers.

Recommendation 1: Peer group support programs to be established in all high schools.

· Teachers should provide back-up support by acting as student liaison officers.

The next issue is career information in schools and they make the general comment:

· Young people of NES backgrounds are disadvantaged when it comes to receiving career info.

· More information is required on part-time apprenticeships.

Recommendation 1: career information needs to be more accessible to all students.

With respect to university morale, the recommendations are:

Recommendation 1: The Government needs to have a dialogue with students and universities to discuss more funding for smaller classes, retention of lecturers, better facilities and more research grants.

Recommendation 2: There is a need for greater mentoring and pastoral care services.

Recommendation 3: Introduce a `Foundation' year for all first year students.

Recommendation 4: There is a need to establish links between academia and industry while students are studying.

Recommendation 5: All lecture notes and papers should be posted on the Internet.

I turn to the employment topic group, which stated:

Recommendation 1: Foundation skills should be recognised as a core component of education.

With respect to volunteerism, they state:

Recommendation 1: There should be incentives for young people to participate in volunteering activities.

Concerning young people and mental illness, they state:

Recommendation: Establish a nationwide campaign to reduce stigmas associated with mental illness and employment.

With respect to apprenticeships, they state:

Recommendation 1: Apprentices should be eligible for rent assistance and healthcare cards.

Recommendation 2: Establishment of a workplace mentor program to support new apprentices and educate them about their rights and available services.

Recommendation 3: Establishment of a workplace code of conduct.

I now go to the health and wellbeing topic group, with respect to young women and sport:

Recommendation 1: Restructuring of national coaching accreditation courses to better encompass the needs of individual athletes.

With respect to sexuality based issues:

Recommendation 1: Teachers should receive specialised training to raise awareness of discriminatory language and antidiscrimination education policy.

It is very clear that I will not have the time to work through all of these recommendations so, with the leave of the coalition, I would like to incorporate the rest of the recommendations provided by the Youth Roundtable in the Hansard. I know I have not shown them to the coalition, but I am keen to place these recommendations on the record so that all parliamentarians can see them.

Leave not granted.

Senator LUNDY —It is very disappointing that leave has not been granted. I will take the opportunity to place them on the record at another time. (Time expired)