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Wednesday, 28 February 2001
Page: 24697

Mr BARRESI (7:43 PM) —Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to see a project that was a mere dream for so many come to fruition. It was a special occasion to finally launch with the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Dr David Kemp, a program designed for those youth often tagged by our society as being too hard to help, perhaps at risk. Congratulations to Pastor Mark Bateman and his team at Maroondah Community Care for their persistent endeavours to get the project up and running. The program is called Checkpoint.

Every now and then in politics one has an opportunity to be involved in a program or policy initiative which will really make a difference to the lives of the people one represents. Checkpoint, I am proud to say, is one such program. Three years ago after meeting the coordinators of a similar program right here in Canberra, I came away believing that Melbourne's east needed a program which gave real hope to those young people who, as a society, we often give up hope on. We already have some of the best agencies and youth programs in the country. The Jobs Pathway program team of KYM, which has over 76 schools within its region, the REFS, the former Ringwood Extended Family Services, which developed the Reconnect program which is now used throughout the country, and the VET in schools program, to name but a few, are excellent programs for the youth of the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, in particular those living in the Deakin electorate.

At the meeting that I referred to I had the good fortune to stumble upon Pastor Mark Bateman and we discussed the issues that affect young people in eastern outer Melbourne. From our observations, it was clear that programs specifically targeting youth who are deemed too difficult to place for whatever reason were needed. The study of the region's statistics resulted in our focusing our original thoughts on youth unemployment, homelessness and crime. Since then the course has been slightly modified. Getting the program to this point has been a long road in negotiations, discussions and, importantly, perseverance over a three-year period.

The journey throughout this period was made so much easier by the shared vision of what was needed and the deeply held conviction by Pastor Mark Bateman, Dan Jackson—both from the Maroondah City Church—and me that this would work. Along the way, so many others were convinced of the Checkpoint dream—Peter O'Connor from KYM, Pat Jones from Swinburne TAFE, Croydon Rotary and, in more recent times, members of the Australian Defence Force, particularly the Navy and the Army, and the local Maroondah scouting group. It gave me immense personal pride to be part of that launch. It is a rare occasion to find an opportunity comes by that brings together local businesses, youth services and education providers for the benefit of our young kids.

Too often I hear on the streets that young people fall by the wayside as they try to define who they are. Projects like Checkpoint provide our young people with an alternative opportunity—a chance to turn their life around for the better. Not only does this project benefit our youth; the local community also stands to gain from Checkpoint. By training our youth in a discipline where there is a recognised skill shortage in our region, there is a greater chance that they will be able to find work and be reconnected into the community. But Checkpoint is not merely about training our youth and sending them off to find a job. If it were to simply just do that, we would be doing only half the job. Pastor Mark Bateman is a strong believer in building a barrier at the top of the cliff—not being an ambulance at the bottom picking up and patching up the pieces. He is a strong proponent of making an impact on the lives of youth that are facing difficulties—but, more than that, giving young people hope again. I share this view with him. I know that Checkpoint will be a valuable asset to our society and make a difference to their lives and the lives of those around them.

What a great opportunity to have the Checkpoint program in the Deakin electorate helping these kids through an eight-week training program and seeing them go through a pre-apprenticeship program. I congratulate all those involved, particularly the Swinburne TAFE, which is offering the facilities, and the Navy and Army personnel. More importantly, I congratulate Mark Bateman and the Maroondah City Church and Maroondah Community Care on having this program under their auspices.