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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2783 ..

In 2017 the ACT government supported Families ACT to conduct two middle years forums to discuss the challenges facing young people in this age group, particularly those who are vulnerable. At around the same time the Community Services Directorate commissioned the Australian Catholic University to engage directly with young people who had an experience of homelessness under 16 years of age, the lower age threshold for funded homelessness services.

In 2018 the Youth Coalition, Families ACT, ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter developed an action plan to prevent child homelessness, Included in this action plan was a proposal for a service model that would not only provide an accommodation service for young people at risk of homelessness or other harm but would seek to address the underlying causes by working with the whole family to address conflict and breakdown. This sector-led work helped inform the Safe and Connected Youth Pilot, which the government funded and delivered in partnership with the Youth Coalition, Conflict Resolution Service, Northside Community Services, Woden Community Service, Marymead and the Rotary Club of Canberra.

The pilot has been an outstanding success in demonstrating co-design and co-production with the community, and I would like to take this opportunity to make a special mention and thank Justin Barker from the Youth Coalition. Justin played a significant role in championing the Safe and Connected Youth Program, and his passion for this project, for youth workers and for the young people that they care for cannot be overestimated.

MS ORR: Minister, through the pilot, the Youth Coalition has identified that a purpose-built respite facility would be a valuable addition to the program’s range of responses for young people. Can you please update the Assembly on the government’s investment in such a facility?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH-: I thank Ms Orr for the supplementary question. Through the Safe and Connected Youth Pilot an opportunity was identified to develop a purpose-built respite accommodation facility which could support the Safe and Connected Youth Program using a model based on the successful Ruby’s Reunification Program in South Australia.

In 2020 the ACT government allocated a million dollars through the fast tracked ‘screwdriver ready’ program to refurbish a Housing property into a respite facility to support young people under the age of 16 who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The redevelopment which is currently underway has been informed by close engagement with young people themselves as well advice from the Ruby’s Reunification Program.

These investments—firstly, in establishing a pilot program and then in extending the pilot to meet the increased need through the pandemic, in refurbishing the respite facility and, through the budget to be handed down this afternoon, in committing $7 million over four years to establish Safe and Connected Youth as an ongoing and expanded program—highlight the Barr Labor government’s commitment to supporting everyone in the Canberra community who is doing it tough. Canberrans vote Labor for a reason, and I think this is it.

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