Friday 22 June 2007 - Estimates Committee B (O'Byrne)

Friday 22 June 2007

Mr Dean
Mr Finch
Mrs Jamieson
Mrs Rattray-Wagner
Ms Ritchie
Mrs Smith (Chair)

Hon. Michelle O'Byrne , Minister for Community Development; Minister assisting the Premier on Local Government

(Department of Economic Development


6.6 Children and Youth Affairs -policy advice and community services –

Mr FINCH - Is Tasmania's Early Childhood and Child Care Action Plan a fait accompli? Is it operating now, is it functioning?

Ms O'BYRNE - You do not mean the Early Years Foundation, the whole-of-government action plan?

Mr FINCH - Early Childhood and Child Care Action Plan.

Ms O'BYRNE - That is actually a COAG thing. From my memory it went to COAG but it has not actually been ticked off entirely. It was not supported by the Federal Government at that stage. It was not supported by the Federal Government but it is still on the agenda for COAG and the States will pursue it.

Mr FINCH - Thank you. The local government youth forum and the Tasmanian youth forum are, I suppose, welcome counters to children should be seen and not heard.

Ms O'BYRNE - If that was your parenting policy with the boys, Mr Finch, you failed significantly.

Mr FINCH - In my opinion, we probably do not hear enough from the youth forums and the feedback back to the community about what they are thinking. I would like to think that they are working well enough, but we tend to not hear as much as I think we could about what the young people are thinking and saying and the issues that they are generating.

Ms O'BYRNE - I am going to respond to that one, but I cannot do it without also touching on a whole host of other mechanisms that we employ to hear the voices of young people. Personally, it is one of the things where there is a really good synergy within my role because I have this area of community development, children and youth affairs and I assist the Premier on local governments. It allows us to work with those common interests and initiatives together. The majority of councils currently have youth advisory mechanisms and youth policies in place to assist them with youth participation. Twenty-five out of 29 councils - 86 per cent - have youth advisory mechanisms; 27 out of 29 have youth policies or strategies, which is 89 per cent. We provide some seed funding to increase youth participation - around $76 000 for youth participation and planning in councils for the development of youth policies and strategies.

The forum has been operating since 1999 and 56 participants attended the seventh annual local government youth forum on Wednesday 4 October at the Tramsheds in Launceston. It was organised with the assistance of the working group comprising youth staff from Derwent Valley, Dorset, Glenorchy City, Hobart City, Huon Valley and Launceston City councils. There was a representative from LGAT and OCYA as well. Twenty-four councils were represented at the forum, as well as YNOT, LGAT and TIC. There is a 2007 forum to be planned in October. We also host an annual survey of local government youth policies, programs and facilities through OCYA, which gives both State and local governments an overview of existing programs and gives us an opportunity to work more with local government. There were some other mechanisms. We have a whole-of-government youth policy framework. You would be aware we are doing some work on youth policy to find ways to underpin the way that State Government involves young people in its policies, programs and services. Because Children have now formed part of my portfolio area, that is a new addition to become the Office of Children and Youth Affairs. We are refining, reviewing and extending the draft youth framework to compensate for that. We have the State of Our Youth Report, which is a triennial report providing an overview of government programs and policies for young people. The 2007 report is very close to completion, I am assured, and that is going to outline not only the process for consultations but also young people's perception as well. OCYA produced a draft consultation paper - and I know that Mrs Jamieson will be interested in this one because it is called 'Want To Know What I Think?' - Views and Perceptions of Young People Living with Disability in Tasmania'. It outlines those issues for young people. That report will be released with the State of Our Youth Report shortly, and I will ensure that you all get copies of it because I know there are a few members here with an interest. Specifically, young people looked for information on current programs and services, identified gaps in program and service provision and future plans and directions for programs and services for young people with disability.

We have developed a handbook encouraging young people to join committees and boards to make that their voice is heard. It is called Let's Get On Board and it is targeting people under the age of 29 years.

CHAIR - I think everybody is jealous.

Ms O'BYRNE - In response to the different types of communication that young people use now, Link has its own web portal managed by OCYA which provides access and information. We give money to YNOT and their organisations to hear those voices. I have a view that we are listening very well to young people so I think that we need to develop strategies to combat this rather than assume that they are not making their voices heard. This is important when the media run negative stories about them we all come across amazing young people all the time.

The Young Tasmanian of the Year Award, for instance, showcased a huge depth of wonderful young people doing incredibly sophisticated and amazing things in Tasmania. To foster inclusion and participation within community development and all the areas I represent I aim to create links to encourage people to be part of initiatives.

Mr FINCH - What level of funding and support does your department give the National Youth Week?

Ms O'BYRNE - Through OCYA we contributed $63 500 for the 2007 National Youth Week program. This consisted of $55 000 for the 2007 NYW grants program and $8 500 for market administration. The Australian Government gave us $11 000 towards that. We funded 50 organisations comprising 31 local government and non- government organisations and 19 schools for National Youth Week.

We saw a drop in the rate of participation - which I am sure is where you are going in your next question - and I want to highlight some of the causes for that. One is that in previous years Streets Alive in Launceston attracted a high level of participation as did Centrelink which used to run an event explaining a host of different opportunities for young people during Youth Week. The Commonwealth Government, in their wisdom, decided it was too resource-intensive and the demise of that event led to a drop-off in participation. I am not sure I can blame anybody for this, but it rained during the most recent Youth Week which affected participation rates because so many events required better weather, although nobody complained about the rain.

Mr FINCH - Climate change resolved some of those issues, though.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Minister, would you be interested in picking up where the Federal Government has left off?

Ms O'BYRNE - Centrelink have access to resources and information that we cannot necessarily access but any organisation could apply for one of our grant programs in order to facilitate that. I think it may have been only held in the south as well so organisations could apply to us to extend it to other areas. I think that Education also do some work in that area but that means that it does not come into our figures for Youth Week, unfortunately.

[1.15 p.m.]
Mrs JAMIESON - I am interested in your review of the youth policy framework. Is that also going to include any policy in the early intervention for kids who are at risk of detention, for example?

Ms O'BYRNE - That is a Youth Justice issue.

Mrs JAMIESON - This is where I am getting confused with your role.

Ms O'BYRNE - It is confusing in a number of our areas. One thing is the Early Years Foundation, which has made significant progress under our stewardship. It has been in a couple of different department in the past. Since becoming minister, we have established the Early Years Foundation board, made up of government representatives, the Commissioner for Children, community members and seven very highly qualified academics in the area of early years, including people like Professor Phillip Gammage, who brings a great wealth of knowledge about early years development.

They have determined some key priorities and strategies for the next 12 months. The first one is establishing a committee of members to scope a research project that will look at compiling a database, updated service mapping and an outcomes-based framework to ensure effective and targetive expenditure. The questions that you have under Youth Justice will be answered within an Early Years Foundation document that gives us a picture of children across the country.

Mrs JAMIESON - That was the follow-on question. I see there are 10 initiatives.

Ms O'BYRNE - Also, developing a grant program to fund initiatives through relevant sectors in the community and that could include funding for a child-care centre or a community organisation or a regional library for a program for early years development.