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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3362 ..

MR STEFANIAK: I am not quite sure that the member has got the right end of the stick there. Members would be aware that the Civic Youth Centre has been operating from the Griffin Centre for some time. It continues to do so; in fact, it has enhanced its services considerably this year. Mr Speaker, at the present time the structure of the service and the opening hours are really very much a matter for the staff and the board of management there. The coordinator of the Civic Youth Centre has informed the Office of Youth that from January of next year the opening hours of the Civic Youth Centre will be extended from 4.30 pm to 6.00 pm Monday to Thursday. Obviously, that will benefit the many youths who utilise the centre.

A free meal has been offered in the past to persons older than 25 years as well as to young people. The Civic Youth Centre's management is attempting to discourage persons over 25 years from using the centre as a focus for meeting their needs. That will mean that organisations which currently offer the free meal service from the Civic Youth Centre at 4.30 pm will be required to offer this service from 6.00 pm. I have not heard of anything which indicates that people who need a free meal will not get it, except that the times have changed. The time of 6.00 pm is probably a lot better for dinner than 4.30 pm. The centre is doing a number of other things apart from extending its hours. It is also looking at ways in which it can further enhance the needs of youth at the centre.

MS TUCKER: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I do not think the Minister understood the question. This food will have to be prepared and given in another venue because, basically, it is not appropriate for that to be occurring at the Civic Youth Centre. You are quite correct in what you said, except the point is that what we have been left with is a number of community organisations which are prepared to offer free food to the homeless at 4 o'clock. That time is better for the people in the organisation because they can then go home to their own families. So, it is not going to be as easy for that community sector to provide the meals at 6 o'clock. That is what I am hearing from the community, Minister, so maybe you need to do some more work on it. Apparently, there is space in the Griffin Centre but, because of the requirement to pay rent, it is going to cost $13,000 a year to provide this absolutely vital service. My supplementary question is: Will the Government, being the caring government we hear it is, be prepared to subsidise the rent to enable these community organisations to provide this food free for those people in Canberra who are homeless and hungry?

MR STEFANIAK: It may not even be a question of that, Ms Tucker. Whilst the Civic Youth Centre is attempting to discourage people over 25 years of age utilising the centre as a focus for their meetings and so on, it is not shutting them out completely. A number of organisations provide food. I understand that some of the organisations that provide food do not necessarily do so at the Civic Youth Centre. I am certain that something can be worked out between the various organisations that are providing food to the various outlets and potential outlets that we have around the Civic area. That is certainly something that my office will facilitate if it can.

Ms Tucker: Is that a yes?

MR STEFANIAK: It is at the moment. We will see what we can do.

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