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Anderson's discretion

Key regional seats promised millions during election

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: The Federal Police say there is no case to answer.

John Anderson, the Deputy PM and Nationals Leader says he's not surprised.

Tony Windsor, the Independent MP at the centre of it all says it's a disgrace and has rejected
calls for his resignation.

That may be the end of the Windsor claim of political bribery, but you can expect to hear more
questions about the conditions attached to the $6 million of Government funding for an equine
centre in Mr Windsor's electorate, pledged by the Howard Government during the election campaign.

Under the Regional Partnerships Program such an allocation of public money is now made completely
at the Minister's discretion.

But that $6 million is just a drop in a very large bucket of discretionary funds available to Mr
Anderson as Minister, and, as the '7:30 Report' reveals tonight, at least $40 million of public
money was doled out for regional grants in marginal or special interest electorates during the
six-week election campaign alone.

And there's a lot more targeted largesse to come.

Political editor Michael Brissenden reports.

MICHAEL BRISSENDON: They may not agree on much anymore, but the one thing close to the hearts of
all the players in the so-called Windsor bribery affair is this yet-to-be-built Equine and
Livestock Centre in Tamworth, the brainchild of the energetic Tamworth businessman and middleman in
this saga, Greg Maguire.

During the election campaign, the equine centre received $6 million of funding, money provided
under what was described at the time as John Anderson's Regional Partnerships Program.

But that $6 million, it seems, is just a small strand of lucerne in a very big bale of government
hay.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I'm very pleased indeed to announce this morning that the Commonwealth
Government will contribute $1.5 million towards the establishment of the Slim Dusty Centre in
Kempsey.

MICHAEL BRISSENDON: The Slim Dusty Centre will be built at the Kempsey Showground.

Slim was born in Kempsey, but it also happens to be in Deputy National Leader Mark Vaile's
electorate of Lyne.

But this is, as we will see, something of an aberration.

Lyne is safe National Party territory, but much of the $100 million spent under the Regional
Partnerships Program so far has been far more carefully targeted.

The program was established in July last year by combining money set aside for the existing
regional funding programs, such as regional assistance, dairy assistance and structural adjustment
programs, under the one big umbrella.

After adding an additional $61 million, the new program had $408.5 million to hand out until 2007.

It was designed to make things simpler for communities to obtain government backing for development
projects.

Under the old program, proposals were put through a rigorous application, assessment and approval
process by bureaucrats in the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Mr Anderson says applications are still rigorously assessed, but, according to the department's
guidelines, the new Regional Partnerships Program is: "a discretionary grant program.

the funding of projects by regional partnership is at the discretion of the Federal Minister for
Transport and Regional Services or the Federal Minister for Regional Services and Local Government.

And so far, under the program, $100 million has been spent on projects as diverse as a $7,000 coin
operated telescope opposite Hinchinbrook Island to an $8 million science and technology precinct in
Mackay.

But as this spreadsheet, leaked from the department to the 7:30 Report, shows of the $100 million
spent so far, at least $40 million of it, and possibly more, was allocated in the six weeks of the
election campaign alone and almost exclusively to marginal electorates or seats taken from the
Nationals by country Independents.

According to the leaked document, these include - $ 6.5 million spent in Hinkler on an aviation
hall and an RM Williams bush centre.

The $8 million technology centre in Dawson.

$5 million for a rodeo park and more than a million dollars for a milk-processing project in
Kennedy.

More than $8 million spent in Bass in Tasmania on a variety of projects, including a synthetic
bowling green, a swimming pool and a bike track.

Also included in the departmental leak is a list of more than $1 million spent on various projects
in Eden Monaro, often considered the litmus test seat for federal elections.

And a similar amount in McEwen, a marginal Liberal seat in Victoria.

On all of these, John Anderson or the Minister for Territories and Local Government have the final
say, but, above all, Mr Anderson says he stands by the process.

JOHN ANDERSON, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it goes through a very rigorous and independent process
and in the case of the equine centre, due diligence is being conducted right now.

What we target are things that we think will develop regional growth and jobs.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Maybe so, and those processes may have been completed before the election
campaign began, and they may well all be worthy cases, but it is clear a good deal of government
money allocated under the program was announced during the campaign, and it's worth noting that
there's still $300 million in the bucket to spend in the next three years.

Certainly in the light of the Tony Windsor allegations, the $6 million allocated for the Tamworth
equine centre has attracted the Opposition's eye, and not just for what it is, but importantly for
how it was funded.

Mr Windsor says he believed the funding was made conditional on him standing down from the board.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: The National Party has got to learn the lesson that all Australians
matter and if a member of Parliament has got a good case for funding a project in the public
interest, that case should be heard, whether it's Tony Windsor or a National Party MP or a Labor
MP.

This is public money.

It doesn't belong to John Anderson or Sandy Macdonald, it belongs to the Australian people, and it
should be allocated the right and proper way, instead of being dominated by such petty political
considerations.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Mr Anderson says he didn't demand Tony Windsor resign from the board, but he
told Parliament last week that he did want it clearly known where the money had come from.

JOHN ANDERSON: I did make the request, of course, that the government responsible for being able to
do those things should be given proper credit should it come to pass.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Opposition will obviously be lining up this list of expenditure to attack
the Government with when Parliament resumes next week.

Mr Anderson's office says Labor is playing politics.

Of course, the money is being spent in regional areas and quote, "The office says it's not the
Government's fault that Labor doesn't have any regional members."

Further, if anyone can point to any projects not deserving of funds, well, they will be looked at.

Keep in mind, though, that under the department's guidelines, the minister, John Anderson, is the
final arbiter in any review process.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political editor Michael Brissenden.

States of health

Couple mortgage home to fund knee surgery

Reporter: Heather Ewart

KERRY O'BRIEN: After a brief flurry of activity, the suggestion by NSW Premier Bob Carr that the
Federal Government take total control of the health system seems to have been consigned to history.

In its wake, Australia's health system continues to grapple with the bureaucratic nightmare created
by the mix of federal and State funding.

In the bush, where specialist services are much harder to access, it can lead to particular
hardship, like the woman who opted to mortgage her house to go to the city for surgery.

Heather Ewart reports.

HEATHER EWART: Joyce and Jack Soar live on the edge of Victoria's high country in East Gippsland.

They're pensioners with no private health insurance and they've just mortgaged their house to pay
for Joyce's knee reconstruction surgery in the city, four hours' drive away.

It was one of the most distressing decisions of their lives.

JOYCE SOAR: When you've, all your life, struggled to bring your kids up, give them a good
education, you have bought your house, you've got no debts other than rates and things like that.

I didn't want to have a mortgage, but they wore me down in the end so that was it.

HEATHER EWART: Joyce Soar became the innocent victim of hospital cutbacks at the nearby regional
centre of Bairnsdale earlier this year.

She had been on the waiting list for months to have her knee surgery done locally by a visiting
Melbourne specialist and was amazed to learn this was not going to happen.

JOYCE SOAR: I didn't believe it at first.

The hospital had cancelled all hip and knee operations and put it in the paper and a friend rang up
to tell me, "Have you read it?"

When I contacted the hospital, they told me to contact my specialist, which I had, and he said he
wouldn't be coming back to Bairnsdale.

HEATHER EWART: Faced with the prospect of going on another waiting list or switching specialists,
Joyce Soar decided she couldn't deal with the pain or confusion anymore and opted to have the
surgery done in the private system in Melbourne at a cost of $16,000.

DR MARK STEVENS, VISITING MEDICAL OFFICER: A number of my patients haven't really realised until
suddenly they have been left in the lurch, expecting to be operated on and then suddenly getting a
letter saying, "I'm sorry, but your specialist cannot offer services at our hospital anymore."

HEATHER EWART: Dr Mark Stevens is Joyce Soar's GP.

Like many of his colleagues, he was incensed to learn that elective surgery at the local hospital
would be cut substantially and visiting specialist services curtailed or dropped because of a
budget shortfall.

Some patients would now have to resort to the long trip to the city for treatment.

DR MARK STEVENS: To me it's doubly mean because this is one of the poorest areas in Victoria.

HEATHER EWART: Bairnsdale has a population of 13,000, but it serves a region of 40,000 that
stretches to remote areas on the NSW border and covers a growing number of retirees.

This town now finds itself at the centre of a complicated federal/State health funding wrangle and
service cutbacks that would not be alien to other rural communities in Australia.

It also highlights a growing frustration in the bush that city dwellers seem to be getting a better
deal.

MAN: We miss out a lot in the country and it seems that we get that feeling we don't matter here,
that sort of thing.

WOMAN: They should be improving it up here.

More and more old people are coming up here, like we did.

MAN 2: They're trying to get more people into the region.

This sort of thing will take then away from it.

HEATHER EWART: The community's anger was fuelled by local media reports, which broke the news of
the hospital board's cutback plans and actively campaigned against them.

What emerged was a problem stemming back over a number of years, when the hospital was billing the
Federal Government for hundreds of day surgery cases instead of the State Government.

This is one way of hedging funds to treat more patients.

DR JOHN URIE, CHAIRMAN OF VISITING MEDICAL OFFICERS: As far as the medical community and our
patients were concerned, we were unaware that it was a problem at all.

It happens in a lot of hospitals to varying degrees.

But it just continues to be a problem with this State/federal divide in health.

GARY GRAY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BAIRNSDALE HOSPITAL: There appears to be some situations in which
patients weren't formally admitted here historically, which means that the Commonwealth would pay
for the doctors' fees, but those practices don't exist anymore.

HEATHER EWART: In 2002, the board and the hospital's CEO moved to rectify the old way of doing
things and what then showed up on the State's books was a major increase in surgery.

BRONWYN PIKE, VICTORIAN HEALTH MINISTER: A couple of years ago, there was a rapid increase in the
amount of certain surgical procedures, raced right ahead of the resources that were available to
that hospital, and it's important that those resources are used wisely and that the hospital works
within its budget.

DR MARK STEVENS: Through a quirk of funding, an argument or cost-shifting exercise between the
Federal and State Government, are people in East Gippsland - and I'm sure rural people all over
Australia - are suffering.

HEATHER EWART: Over the years, Bairnsdale has steadily attracted specialists from Melbourne to
visit the hospital regularly for consultations and surgery.

They, too, would become part of the cutbacks - among them, Monash IVF specialist Dr Mac Talbot who
dealt with infertility problems and recently set up an IVF clinic at Bairnsdale.

MAC TALBOT, IVF SPECIALIST: At the end of the July, the hospital administration notified me that
due to their budgetary restraints, that all my services were to be stopped at the hospital.

HEATHER EWART: He wasn't the only one to receive a "Dear John" letter.

Others included a Melbourne eye specialist who'd served the community for 26 years and was advised
his schedules would be curtailed due to a budget problem.

So, he quit.

There have been four resignations so far.

MAC TALBOT: With this sort of insecurity, it is very hard to make any long-term plans in an area
like this.

GARY GRAY: Well, the decision of the specialist to leave is entirely theirs.

What we've done is reduced, in some instances, their capacity to access our theatres.

HEATHER EWART: The irony here is that the Federal Government has started subsidising city
specialists to visit rural communities in need.

DR MARK STEVENS: That's why we're, you know, confused.

We get them up here and then we can't pay for them.

BROWNYN PIKE: If the hospital made a decision at some time in the past to put on more visiting
medical officers than it actually had the budget for, then it's appropriate that the hospital now
brings that back into line.

HEATHER EWART: But as Bairnsdale community outrage has grown, the bureaucrats in the Department of
Human Services summoned the hospital board to Melbourne for explanations.

DR MARK STEVENS: The members of the board were told that if they didn't go to the press, the
Bairnsdale Hospital budget would be increased, and they were also told that if they did go to the
press, that the Bairnsdale Hospital budget would suffer.

BROWNWYN PIKE: I don't believe this allegation is accurate and I think it is actually quite
unhelpful because we've been working very closely with the voluntary board of management.

HEATHER EWART: The hospital board here was unavailable for comment.

Perhaps they're all too mindful of the fate of their colleagues at a neighbouring hospital 60km
away, where an entire board has just been sacked by the Victorian Government for alleged funding
irregularities.

HEATHER EWART: How does that make you feel, a bit nervous or not?

GARY GRAY: Um - oh, well, I suppose it puts you on an edge, but there is an edge in every job.

HEATHER EWART: The hospital funding issue is complex and confusing.

So is the formula for who gets what in each State.

The Victorian Government argues it boosts funding to hospitals each year and accuses the Federal
Government of not meeting its side of the bargain, accusations the Commonwealth denies.

The medical profession is fed up.

MAC TALBOT: I promise you you'd need more than a university education to totally understand it.

DR JOHN URIE: It's a mess.

I mean, everyone involved in health care realises that this system is unworkable in the long-term.

DR MARK STEVENS: Country people just want the services that are due to them, the services that any
Australian would expect.

HEATHER EWART: And ultimately, it's patients like Joyce Soar around the country who pay the
heaviest price for a debate that goes round and round in circles with no resolution in sight.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What was that interesting line from the hospital?

It's up to the surgeons whether they come or not, we're just reducing their access to the theatre.

That report from Heather Ewart.

accusations the Commonwealth denies. The medical profession is fed up. I promise you need more than
a university education to totally understand it. It is a mess. I mean, everyone involved in health
care realises that this system is unworkable in the long-term. Country people just want the
services that are due to them, the services that any Australian would expect. And ultimately it is
patients like Joyce Saw around the country who pay the heaviest price for a debate that goes round
and round in circles with no resolution in sight. That report from Heather Ewart. It's
well-documented that in general, men are less healthy than women. We're more likely to become
seriously sick and to suffer higher rates of mental illness and suicide. And, mugs that we are,
we're apparently far less likely to seek help. While formal programs are in place across the
country for those willing to get involved, a project on the NSW mid-north coast has proved to be an
unexpected success. It works on a simple premise - that special relationship between a man and his
shed. But as Tracy Bowden reports, while this commonsense approach appears to be working, the
future of the scheme is under a cloud. Nambucca Heads on the New South Wales mid north coast, about
halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. It looks like the setting for a perfect lifestyle, but behind
the idyllic images lies a harsher social reality. Like many small towns, Nambucca is battling high
unemployment, family breakdown and social isolation. We've had fellas come here that have freely
admitted they had been sitting on the railway trestle waiting for the XPT to come through to throw
himself under it. But an unlikely project on the outskirts of town is turning around the lives of
those who take part. Its secret lies in harnessing the powerful connection between a man and his
shed. and mateship. Do you think the shed has saved lives? Oh, without doubt. I can look you
straight in the eye and say without doubt. All men are welcome here - retired, retrenched,
unemployed or just lonely young and not so young. We've got a lot of fellas who would otherwise be
bouncing off the walls at home, going slowly insane. We're providing a place that's a male friendly
environment where fellas can come. They don't have to disclose where they come from or how they've
come to us, but they can sit and chat or do any of the activities or projects that we get involved
in. While the shed initially began as a substitute garage for retired blokes, it's evolved into
much more. Is this your family in a way? This is my family. Divorced and living alone, Mick
Craddock found there wasn't much calling for 60-year-old engineers. Now he volunteers his time as
chief boat builder here at the shed. This is boat building heaven. I get to build what boats I
like. However, I like to do them, teach people how to do it, see them go home happy. I go home
happy. I don't go home and kick the dog; I give the dog a pat. He is invaluable to the place simply
because he has trained so many young kids. It is a reciprocal arrangement. If he didn't have this
you would worry in the next 12 months what would happen to Mick. Mick Craddock and the other older
blokes are passing on not just practical skills but life experience to young men through the
mentoring program. I didn't make any friends, couldn't find anyone I could relate to or anyone that
liked me for who I am, I guess. When Joel Bennett and his mum Jo moved to Nambucca Heads from the
New South Wales south coast, the teenager struggled to settle in. In the end, he refused to go to
school. I thought, "I've produced a no-hoper. "He's just going to sit on the dole and do nothing
with his life." Then Jo Dennington heard about the men's shed. Mick Craddock and his mate Big Al
Corbett took Joel Bennett under their wing. I went down there to see what it was like and I had a
great time the first time I went down there, and all that was very welcoming and made me feel like
I was part of the family. In the process of building a boat with these men, something happened to
Joel Bennett. The lonely young man who hated school regained lost confidence, resumed his studies
and has just completed his Year 12 exams. I didn't plan for him to come from a single-parent
family, but he did and he needed to hear stuff that males do that I don't have a clue about. It's
really important for his development and growth. All the blokes here have their own stories about
how they wound up at the shed and how it's helped them. I love doing things with me hands, woodwork
and make all me own furniture at home. I made it here. And the blokes, it seems, aren't the only
ones to benefit. What do the wives think? Most wives think it's good because the men come here,
they don't go home drunk and they are out from under their feet, mixing with their mates and they
seem to come home a bit happier. The problem we've got here in Australia at the moment especially
in men's health issues, it is akin to parking the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff. The problem
that you have is that there are only services there to pick the person up once the fella goes over
the edge. The problem that you have is when they do that, they are taking their partners, their
wives, their families, their kids and friends - a lot of people - with them. Psychologist Bill
O'Hehir has watched the hands-on activity and camaraderie at the shed produce impressive results.
I've seen guys that wanted to punch myself and Stu out, seen guys who wanted to blow up the Family
Law Court, depressed about losing their children. Over a period of time with goals and advice, you
find they calm down.

All in their sheds

Key to mens' health could be found in the shed

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

KERRY O'BRIEN: And now an important story about men and their sheds.

It's well-documented that in general men are less healthy than women.

We're more likely to become seriously sick and to suffer higher rates of mental illness and
suicide.

And, mugs that we are, we're apparently far less likely to seek help.

While formal programs are in place across the country for those willing to get involved, a project
on the NSW mid-north coast has proved to be an unexpected success.

It works on a simple premise - that special relationship between a man and his shed.

But as Tracy Bowden reports, while this commonsense approach appears to be working, the future of
the scheme is under a cloud.

TRACY BOWDEN: Nambucca Heads on the New South Wales mid north coast, about halfway between Sydney
and Brisbane.

It looks like the setting for a perfect lifestyle, but behind the idyllic images lies a harsher
social reality.

Like many small towns, Nambucca is battling high unemployment, family breakdown and social
isolation.

STUART HOLMES, PROJECT OFFICER: We've had fellas come here that have freely admitted that their
story has been they've been sitting on the railway trestle waiting for the XPT to come through so
they could throw themselves under it.

TRACY BOWDEN: But an unlikely project on the outskirts of town is turning around the lives of those
who take part.

It's all about harnessing the power of a man and his shed and mateship.

Do you think the shed has saved lives?

BILL O'HEHIR, PSYCHOLOGIST: Oh, without doubt.

I can look you straight in the eye and say without doubt.

TRACY BOWDEN: All men are welcome here - retired, retrenched, unemployed or just lonely - young and
not so young.

STUART HOLMES: We've got a lot of fellas who would otherwise be bouncing off the walls at home,
going slowly insane.

We're providing a place that's a male friendly environment where fellas can come.

They don't have to disclose why they're here or how they've come to us but they can sit and chat
and have a cuppa or do any of the activities or projects that we get involved in.

TRACY BOWDEN: While the shed initially began as a substitute garage for retired men, it's evolved
into much more.

Is this your family in a way?

MICK CRADDOCK: This is my family.

TRACY BOWDEN: Divorced and living alone, Mick Craddock found there wasn't much calling for
60-year-old engineers.

Now he volunteers his time as chief boat builder here at the shed.

MICK CRADDOCK: This is boat building heaven.

I get to build what boats I like, however I like to do them, teach people how to do it, see them go
home happy.

I go home happy.

I don't go home and kick the dog - I give the dog a pat.

BILL O'HEHIR: He is invaluable to the place simply because he has trained so many young kids.

TRACY BOWDEN: But this place is also invaluable to him.

BILL O'HEHIR: Oh, yes.

It is a reciprocal arrangement.

If he didn't have this, if we lost this, you would worry in the next 12 months what would happen to
Mick.

TRACY BOWDEN: Mick Craddock and the other older blokes are passing on not just practical skills but
life experience to young men through the mentoring program.

JOEL BENNETT: I didn't make any friends, couldn't find anyone I could relate to or anyone that
liked me for who I am, I guess.

TRACY BOWDEN: When Joel Bennett and his mum Jo moved to Nambucca Heads from the New South Wales
South Coast, the teenager struggled to settle in.

In the end, he refused to go to school.

JO DENNINGTON: I thought he'd be a no-hoper on the dole.

"I've produced a no-hoper.

He's just going to sit on the dole and do nothing with his life."

TRACY BOWDEN: Then Jo Dennington heard about the men's shed.

Mick Craddock and his mate Big Al Corbett took Joel Bennett under their wing.

JOEL BENNETT: I went down there to see what it was like and I had a great time the first time I
went down there.

Big Al and all that was very welcoming and made me feel like I was part of the family.

TRACY BOWDEN: In the process of building a boat with these men, something happened to Joel Bennett.

The lonely young man who hated school regained lost confidence, resumed his studies and has just
completed his Year 12 exams.

JO DENNINGTON: I didn't plan for him to come from a single-parent family, but he did and he needed
to hear stuff that males do that I don't have a clue about that is really important for his
development and growth.

TRACY BOWDEN: All the blokes here have their own stories about how they wound up at the shed and
how it's helped them.

ROBERT EDWARDS: I like doing woodwork I love doing things with me hands, you know, woodwork.

I've made all me own furniture at home.

I made it here.

TRACY BOWDEN: And the blokes, it seems, aren't the only ones to benefit.

What do the wives think about the shed?

MICK CRADDOCK: Most wives think it's good because the men come here, they don't go home drunk and
they are out from under their feet, mixing with their mates and they seem to come home a bit
happier.

STUART HOLMES: The problem we've got here in Australia at the moment especially in men's health
issues, is it's akin to parking the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff.

The problem that you have is that there are only services there to pick the pieces up once the
fella goes over the edge.

The problem that you have is when they do that, they are taking their partners, their wives, their
families, their kids and friends - a lot of people - with them.

TRACY BOWDEN: Psychologist Bill O'Hehir has watched the hands-on activity and camaraderie at the
shed produce impressive results.

BILL O'HEHIR: I've seen guys that wanted to punch myself and Stu out, literally wanted to
physically take us on.

I've seen seen guys who wanted to blow up the Family Law Court.

I've seen guys extremely angry and depressed about losing their children.

Over a period of time with some intervention with some goals and tasks and with a sense of starting
to fit in and belong you find they calm down.

They are more prepared to talk with you.

It is a very slow process, but it is a very powerful process.

TRACY BOWDEN: It might be a commonsense plan that works well, but the shed is under threat.

STUART HOLMES: Our Federal Government funding runs out in January and unfortunately without that we
will have to close the doors of the shed.

It is as simple as that.

JO DENNINGTON: They've got to keep it going.

I realise the difficulty they have with funding, but it would be sad to see us lose such a resource
because they've helped so many kids, not just mine.

JOEL BENNETT: They didn't just teach me about building a boat, they taught me about how to go on
with my life.

They taught me not to give up, to keep on going and go for what I want.

No Dole Program

Community works to keep teenagers off welfare

Reporter: Jocelyn Nettlefold

KERRY O'BRIEN: And while we've got a bit of a theme running, more than a fifth of Australian
teenagers never get off the starting blocks in the labour market - they miss out on finding a job
or simply opt not to pursue one.

Some students say schools aren't doing enough to prepare them for the job market, and many
employers agree.

But a little-known scheme by a Tasmanian charity, the Beacon Foundation, is already recording great
success in keeping teenagers away from the welfare queue.

The No Dole Program being rolled out in schools across the country helps students either get jobs
or work out what they need to do to crank up their careers.

Jocelyn Nettlefold reports.

TEACHER: This is all about you.

You guys are number one and we believe in you and the fantastic future you all have ahead of you.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: These Year 10 students are making a solemn pledge.

By March next year, they must either have a job or else be studying or training in order to get
one.

A tall order for any Australian teenager.

EDWINA PAUL, SYDNEY SECONDARY COLLEGE STUDENT: I think it is kind of scary because you go in there
and sort of the idea of rejection comes in and you start getting nervous.

REBECCA LITTLE, CRESSY DISTRICT HIGH STUDENT: Oh, what am I going to do and it's coming around so
fast.

And leaving school, I've been here all my life, so it's scary.

SAM PATTERSON, SYDNEY SECONDARY COLLEGE STUDENT: It's way harder than anybody would ever think.

I've talked to my parents about it a lot.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: But for those who make the No Dole pledge there is an army of support.

These students at Cressy District High in rural Tasmania will have the backing of family, friends,
local business leaders and their principal, Annette Hollingsworth.

ANNETTE HOLLINGSWORTH, CRESSY DISTRICT HIGH PRINCIPAL: They're brave.

They're saying, "This is a pretty scary area, this is my future and I'm making a commitment."

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Do they get into strife if they break the contract?

ANNETTE HOLLINGSWORTH: Not at all, it's not legally binding.

And they ask that, the children say, "What happens if I have to go on the dole?"

And I say that, "Well, aren't we lucky that you've got fall-back plan, but what you're saying is it
will be a last resort and you'll do other things to avoid it."

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Under the No Dole program, school leavers are linked to local businesses and
training institutions, broadening their career focus well beyond stints of work experience or
career counselling.

A Tasmanian charity, the Beacon Foundation, established the program nine years ago in a bid to stem
the number of teenagers going straight onto unemployment benefits after leaving a school in
Launceston, Brooks High.

SCOTT HARRIS, BEACON FOUNDATION: You saw in the early days, you know, 20-odd young people out the
school gate to nothing.

I mean, the first year that was cut in half with the implementation of No Dole.

The second year it was too, and then four years in a row every Year 10 student going on to further
study or getting a job in the local community.

Now that trend has continued.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: The program's success has seen it spread to every State and Territory.

Later this year, Sydney Secondary College will join the growing roll call of No Dole schools.

40 have signed up and another 30 schools want to join the program next year.

EDWINA PAUL: I think it will make a difference, especially to the people who don't know what they
want to do because another part of the program is to get information out there about jobs and then
with that information people can decide what they want to do, so it makes it a lot easier when
you're choosing a career path.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: 60 employers turned up at the launch of No Dole for Sydney Secondary College to
find out what guidance or work experiences they could offer the students.

CLEO HALL, GRADUATE: I've always wanted to be a police officer.

I just like action.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: She may not be in uniform yet, but 17-year-old Cleo Hall, a graduate of the
original program, is certainly a step closer to being on the beat.

She's doing a vocational training course in administration on the advice it will help her
application to the academy.

CLEO HALL: A couple of my friends actually tried probably about three or four workplaces before
they found what they needed to do, or what they wanted to do.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: A survey of 22,000 students by Melbourne University's Professor John Polesel
showed more exposure to vocational experiences provided skills, more career options and a better
understanding of the workplace.

PROFESSOR JOHN POLESEL, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE: They appreciate the fact that they can apply an
understanding of practical and experiential learning rather than simply academic learning, and
that's a very positive thing for them.

And for those who end up leaving school early, at least they feel that they come out of school with
a vocational qualification rather than no qualification at all.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Corporate support initiated by the No Dole program at Cressy High has led to
improvements at the school farm which boasts an award-winning flock.

It's also created plenty of opportunities for those interested in agriculture to get their hands
dirty.

Some Grade 10 students have been on regular work placements.

Michael McCarthy has been spending time at a local tractor company.

MICHAEL McCARTHY: Yep, I've been helping with the mechanics, like, they give me small jobs and
things to learn to do.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: One of the program's major sponsors says the benefits are flowing both ways.

BEN GRUBB, ELDERS WEBSTER: I'm providing them with the experience and the exposure.

With a bit of luck, they'll enjoy the experience and want to seek out employment, hopefully in the
local area, but more importantly in agriculture.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Are you also talent scouting?

Yes!

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: For students, even those who have their heart set on going to university, the
No Dole program offers more comprehensive career planning and the chance to explore different jobs.

REBECCA LITTLE: It's helped me a lot.

It's put a start to my future and it's helped me feel more positive about my future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: A little bit of optimism there to end the program and why not?

I'm providing them with the experience and the exposure. With a bit of luck, they'll enjoy the
experience and want to seek out employment, hopefully in the local area,