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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2478

Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (20:02): I rise tonight to talk about Youth Connections. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting 17-year-old Tanika, who lives south of Hobart. I met with Tanika to talk about her experience of the vital Youth Connections program which has been provided by Colony 47 in Tasmania since 2010. Tanika was referred to the Youth Connections program by Centrelink. She was in year 11 and was not attending school because of the challenges for her within the school environment. Tanika met Anita, from Colony 47, and her life was transformed. Anita was able to talk to Tanika one-on-one about her future. Tanika said she wanted to work in aged care, and Anita was able to point her in the right direction and explain how she could study and work too. Tanika is now enrolled in a Certificate III in Aged Care and has been successful in obtaining voluntary work in that field. Tanika told me that the Youth Connections program had helped her achieve more than she ever could have achieved on her own. She said:

I'm finally getting a chance at the education I've always wanted. Before that, it was too hard. It's made a big impact on my life, in lots of ways. Everything is starting to fall into place now. I'm really glad Centrelink referred me to Youth Connections. I've been able to think about what I'm good at and what I really want to do. I'm going to do my training in aged care and all my family are really proud of me.

Tanika is a wonderful young woman who came across some challenges that made her very vulnerable to dropping out of education and training. This Youth Connections program has managed to help and support her in a way she never thought possible. But Tanika is not alone. Over 400 vulnerable or at-risk young Tasmanians like Tanika have accessed support through Youth Connections. Youth Connections was set up by Labor in 2010 to make sure young people do not drop out of school and end up unemployed or dependent on welfare.

Since 2010, Labor has funded Youth Connections, partnership brokers and career development services—investing more than $700 million over five years. Up to the end of last year, Youth Connections had given almost 75,000 young people the hand-up they needed. Labor designed these youth services to stop young people who have not completed year 12 from falling between the cracks. If someone drops out of school because of family problems, or any other reason, it is vital to make sure they get a second chance. We know how important it is to finish year 12; it reduces the risk of unemployment and leads to getting more highly paid jobs.

If young people drop out of school it can affect their lives forever. Youth Connections has had a great success rate, with 80 per cent of people who access these services being still in education or employment after two years. Colony 47 CEO Therese Taylor told me that Youth Connections has already supported over 400 young people in Tasmania to improve and expand their connection to education. Colony 47 has also provided support for students moving from primary to high school and newly arrived refugees.

But now we have to ensure that this service is not cut by the budget that we have heard tonight. This budget, unfortunately, will go down in history as an assault on young Australians, particularly those who are disadvantaged and at risk. Youth Connections is an incredibly successful program. It will cost Australia more in unemployment benefits, justice and social services if this program is cut. At a time of rising youth unemployment, cutting this— (Time expired)