Thursday 2 September 2010
Legislative Council Hansard
YOUTH JUSTICE - WHITELION PROGRAM
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, I know my special
interest speech today will be of special interest to the member
for Launceston - he must have known - who is a Whitelion ambassador,
and also to the member for Rumney because she is the minister
responsible for youth justice, and I am sure she will readily
acknowledge that Tasmania's youth justice system is under
a lot of pressure. It has to deal with a very complex problem
which is difficult to understand without knowing what goes
on in the minds of the young people in our community. Its
role is absolutely vital - vital because a properly functioning
youth justice system can effectively rehabilitate troubled
young people and help them back into society if it has sufficient
resources, and I suspect the member for Rumney would like
more government resources for Tasmania's youth justice system.
Ms Thorp - I don't think there is a minister alive who wouldn't
say yes to that.
Mr FINCH - However, I will point out that these resources
are finite. The contribution of the non-government sectors
I think needs to be recognised and supported, Madam President.
I have known of the work of the Whitelion organisation for
some time, and its success came to my attention again at a
recent youth employment showcase in Launceston on 18 August.
More than 200 young people had the opportunity to meet employers
and participate in workshops providing job interview experience,
and to find out what employers are looking for. That showcase
targeted young people disconnected or at risk of being disconnected
from education, training or employment to meet in person with
employers and training organisations, to be interviewed for
job positions, for work experience and/or vocational training
placements, and to attend workshops. The result was that 50
young people applied for jobs. A principal organiser of that
showcase was Whitelion's project manager, Neil Warnock, who
has in-depth experience of young people with problems and,
among other jobs, he managed Ashley some years ago. And he
made a difference. If I put it this way, Madam President,
Neil Warnock probably understands what goes on in troubled
kids' heads better than anyone. The basis for Whitelion's
success in my view is its mentoring program. Young people,
particularly young males, from disrupted homes need role models.
The introductory paragraph in Whitelion's fact sheet says:
'Whitelion is a non-profit organisation that supports disadvantaged
young people to live more positive and fulfilled lives. Each
year thousands of young people are disconnected from their
community due to abuse, neglect, drug addiction and poverty.
These young people have often had horrific life experiences,
with few positive role models, and are caught in a "cycle
of discouragement" that is very hard to break. Many end
up in out-of-home care and, in some cases, in the youth justice
While the youth justice system might have some success in
helping troubled young people avoid becoming troubled adults
in Risdon, organisations like Whitelion can help them not
end up in the Youth Justice system in the first place. That
is the hope. The estimated average annual cost for each bed
in the youth custodial justice system is $164 000 and much
more in the adult custodial system. Whitelion says that it
costs $10 000 to fully engage one young person by providing
them with a mentor and supporting them through the development
of their work readiness skills and employment. I know that
the Treasurer is listening very carefully there. It makes
economic sense, and any State spending to support organisations
like Whitelion would also make sense. Whitelion provides a
variety of programs including early intervention, role modelling,
mentoring, employment, leadership and specialist outreach
support designed to cater for the particular life stage that
young people may find themselves in.
Whatever the mix and composition, all programs are focused
on developing positive relationships with what they call significant
others and providing access to opportunities for social and
skills development. Whitelion programs complement those provided
by the statutory health and welfare systems. This holistic
approach in identifying the needs of young people helps reconnect
them with the community and reduces offending behaviour. I
am here to speak in support. In conclusion, the positive initiatives
that Whitelion offer to the troubled young people in our communities
should have support from all those involved in the political
process. It is not a party issue, it is a human issue.
Glenn Manton and a lot of good people are coming on board.
Thank you, Madam President.