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Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 956

Mr SIMMONS(10.14) —Youth Forum is a project which gives young people in New South Wales in the 14 to 19-years age group the access, tools, resources, information and opportunity to define, prevent and/or solve some of their own problems at a school or community level. While at this stage it is limited to New South Wales, plans are being made to include students from other States of Australia in future Youth Forums. In the experience of the Youth Forum organisers, solutions to the problems of young people are frequently created without the influence and participation of young people-those most affected by the problem. This absence of participation often leads to youth apathy and indifference to community problems. Youth Forum encourages the active involvement of young people in the identification and solution of their own problems. Free and open communication plays an important role in this process.

Youth Forum holds an annual Youth Forum conference at which approximately 300 young people from all over New South Wales identify perceived problems, share and develop ideas on solutions and work out action plans to be implemented in their school or community during the following 12 months. This conference is held at the Mitchell College of Advanced Education in Bathurst during July. It has been held in Bathurst since its inception in 1977. There is also a series of leadership workshops for Youth Forum Committee members who are elected at each annual conference. It also provides resources, ideas, advice, assistance and encouragement to local action groups to help them with their action plans. Youth Forum actively promotes views of young people on issues which affect them. Importantly, Youth Forum encourages decision makers at all levels of government to listen to young people's views on decisions which affect them.

Its plans for 1984 include a State-wide Youth Forum in July 1984, leadership training for the present Youth Forum Committee and regional and local Youth Forums in seven country regions of New South Wales-at Coffs Harbour, Cooma, Broken Hill, Moss Vale, Newcastle, Wagga and West Wyalong. The establishment by International Youth Year 1985 of a youth policy institute in New South Wales will also help to monitor, analyse and report on government and private expenditure on youth programs and initiatives in New South Wales. Some $320,000 has been contributed by corporate sponsorship since 1979. Sponsors include the Law Foundation of New South Wales-a body that was established by statute and reports annually to the New South Wales Parliament. The Foundation is primarily concerned with supporting programs and research which increase community access to the law and to the legal system. Youth Forum was started by the Foundation in 1979. The National Australia Bank has funded Youth Forum since 1980. Esso Australia Ltd joined the Foundation and the Bank as a co-founder of Youth Forum in 1982. The New South Wales Department of Education provides accommodation for the Youth Forum secretariat. Unilever Australia Ltd assisted with the publicity for Youth Forum in 1983. The International Youth Committee secretariat provided $15,000 in 1979. I might add that that is the only source of government funding so far made to Youth Forum.

Yesterday, the office of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) met with the ex-Director of Youth Forum, Julia Young; an honorary consultant to Youth Forum, John Engel and two students from Monaro High School in Cooma, Mary Mitchell and Caroline Soucek, who have been or are active supporters of the concept. Youth Forum has an immediate cash shortfall of $15, 000 to enable it to continue until February next year when it hopes to receive the corporate sponsorship that I mentioned. The Minister for Education and Youth Affairs is now aware of this problem. Following the group's visit to the Schools Commission today, I am hopeful that that body will also understand the need to keep Youth Forum afloat. It would be a great tragedy indeed if, for want of a comparatively small allocation of funding-be it private or public-the concept was left to wither on the vine. Youth Forum deserves continued support.