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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (11 April) . . Page.. 1039 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Mr Speaker, youth in the ACT know they are being ripped off by youth wages, and so do their parents. It is time the government at a federal level recognised the determinants of poverty and social marginalisation and, most importantly, recognised the impacts of wages and conditions in the mix. The downward pressure on youth wages and their very continuance are making Australia a country where working literally does not pay.

During National Youth Week I would like to congratulate the hundreds of thousands of young Australians who support themselves and others on inadequate and unfair wages for the contribution they make to this community. I take this opportunity to say that I am against youth wages and for youth wage justice.

MR STEFANIAK (4.38): Mr Speaker, I think it is very appropriate in National Youth Week to congratulate Ms Dundas for raising as a matter of public importance recognition of the role of young people in our community.

I had the honour for close on six years to be the youth minister here, which probably makes me the longest serving youth minister. Whilst I am now over 50, I look back fondly on that time, and it never fails to amaze me the great contribution young people make to our community not only here in Canberra but in Australia and throughout the world.

A young person is defined as someone between 12 and 26. That age group forms about a quarter of our community here in the ACT, some 75,000 people. During the time I was youth minister, I had great pleasure in meeting large numbers of young people very active in our community. I was well served by the Youth Advisory Council. I compliment them. Mrs Cross mentioned young Neil Pharaoh, who continues to work on the council. He was on the council while I was minister, as were some very fine young people from all walks of life. I was pleased the council was very representative of young people in the ACT. There were young people who were in difficult situations, young people who represented the less fortunate in our community and young people who would perhaps be described as more mainstream. We had some particularly impressive young people on that council.

I mention too the very splendid young people we have had as ambassadors for the ACT since the young Canberran of the year award was inaugurated in 1996. I could be corrected there. It might even have been earlier. Three spring to mind from the time I was youth minister. The first, a star athlete with a disability, Lisa Llorens, is an absolute inspiration. As a schoolgirl at 17, she became young Canberran of the year in 1997. She was followed the next year by Michael Zorbas, who was an excellent ambassador. He was a little bit older than Lisa. He was probably closer to 25 and already in the work force. He was active in going around to all the youth centres and throwing himself into that particular job. He was followed by Michael Quall, at the time the Aboriginal liaison officer with the Australian Federal Police, now working at the Department of Education and Community Services. He was a young married man with two or three children at the time. They are just three. I have not met the current young Canberran of the year, but he sounds very impressive as well. I knew those three well during my time as youth minister.

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