Tuesday 14 March 2017
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Irene Phelps - Tribute


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, today, an interesting story about an interesting person.  In days gone by it was said that it takes a whole village to bring up a child.  This is still true but we do not necessarily speak of a village.  In my electorate we can speak of the West Tamar Council with some outside help.  A complicated concept but I will explain.

The West Tamar Council delivers a range of youth-focused initiatives in the Beaconsfield area.  These include school holiday activities, the Loft Youth Centre and the Wheels for West Tamar driver mentoring program in conjunction with Beaconsfield House.  In July 2015 the council was able to further expand its youth services in Beaconsfield in partnership with the Irene Phelps Charitable Trust.  I heard about Irene Phelps at the end of school assemblies and her name was listed in the acknowledgments at the Exeter High School.  The trust was established in 2013 with a focus on education and young people.

The key was Irene Phelps' childhood on the West Tamar, particularly at Beaconsfield.  She grew up there and went to school at Riverside High, which she left at the age of 15 to her everlasting regret.  Irene was highly successful in a number of fields but was always aware that success would have come more easily if she had continued her education.  Hence, she has provided scholarships to the University of Tasmania, Exeter High School and Riverside High School among others.  She left school at 15.  By the age of 17 she was managing a Just Jeans outlet in Melbourne.  At 19 she went to London to work in fashion retail - Carnaby Street, no less.  At the age of 21 she was back in Victoria and went into commercial and residential real estate and was hugely successful.  Sadly, she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2009 and died in 2012 aged 59.

She laid plans for her trust which opened the year after her death.  A focus of the trust was Beaconsfield and its young people, and then encompassing the West Tamar.  One way is through Headspace with a social worker employed and designated for the West Tamar area.  The other is the West Tamar Council's youth and development officer for the area, Andrew Beeston, and he has big plans for the future of the youth program with even more activities.  He wants every young person to be cared for and mentored to prepare for their future.  Andrew says, we want all young people to have a good start in their education and their careers to be cared for by the community.

The council agreed and the Irene Phelps Charitable Trust was allowed to increase its focus on improving health and wellbeing outcomes amongst young people in the area.  The council is very well positioned for this given the success of their current programs and also the existing infrastructure for young people.

The council has a Youth Development Officer and that is Stewart Bell.  He says because of the Irene Phelps Trust's support the council has been able to employ their youth worker Andrew Beeston for 20 hours a week to engage local people, build community partnerships and increase the range and frequency of youth activities.

He says that the council will strive to address issues facing young people in Beaconsfield and the West Tamar with a particular focus on implementing relevant actions outlined in the council's youth strategy, analyse local needs with a view towards local young people leading effective and sustainable projects that address youth issues, delivering a diverse range of activities and events both after school and at weekends, empowering young people to make informed choices in education, training and employment.  They will implement a range of school-based initiatives that raise awareness of council programs and support services.  Not much good having them if the kids do not know about them.  Also, working closely with schools will deliver a range of education initiatives that improve the capacity of young people to make informed decisions relating to health and wellbeing.  It resonates a little bit with the work of life education.

If the council and the Irene Phelps Trust is successful in just some of these aims we will see healthier, better educated young people in the Beaconsfield and West Tamar area.  They will have a better chance of finding good jobs.  What comes with that is an improvement in young offender numbers.

That concept of taking a whole village to bring up a young person is not so far-fetched.  Thanks, Irene Phelps.