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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2078 ..

Youth homelessness—government funding

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.43): For many years, experts have raised concerns about the lack of specialist homelessness services for young Canberrans below the age of 16. Research conducted in the territory by the ACU reveals that overwhelmingly these kids leave home to escape family conflict, violence, abuse, the impacts of alcohol or drugs, or the impacts of poor mental health. When these young people are picked up by the police, they sometimes spend a night at the watchhouse before being returned to their homes or placed in foster care. None of this fixes the problem.

I therefore welcomed the announcement two years ago of funding for a pilot project called Safe and Connected Youth. This program, which involves the Youth Coalition, Woden Community Service, Northside Community Service, Conflict Resolution Service and Marymead, supports these kids and works with them and their families so that they can return home.

The pilot was very successful, and the Canberra Liberals made continued funding for this program an election commitment in 2020.

During the budget estimates hearings in February, I sought assurance from Minister Stephen-Smith that this important program would be funded beyond 30 June this year. The minister noted that, whilst the next budget would be delayed till August, there was “capacity to make early decisions”. She stated that ongoing funding had not been provided for in the current budget because they were waiting for its evaluation to conclude in May. She then said:

So I think you can be confident that the service supports will continue.

When I specifically asked if any kids needing this service would be left in limbo, she told me that they would not.

In stark contrast, today one can read in the local media that “urgent funding is needed to ensure Canberra’s Safe and Connected Youth Program can continue beyond 30 June” and that “uncertainties around funding” are making it difficult for the program to take on new clients—leaving kids in limbo, exactly as I feared.

I am here today to remind the minister of her assurances that this would not happen. The evaluation has been completed. The program met all its key outcomes. Many young people were able to return home safely, and those who were not have been successfully diverted away from homelessness. I call on the ACT government to immediately provide the funding security that this program requires to keep operating between now and August, and into the future.

Community gardens

MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (4.46): Mental health care, social activities, nature, providing food for those who are struggling to make ends meet, neighbours meeting neighbours, environmentally-friendly food consumption, and a hotel for native bees.

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