Page 4137 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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Now in its 10th year, the Menslink business breakfast is the organisation’s biggest annual fundraising event. This year the event featured the family violence campaigner, school mentor, former Raiders captain and 2017 ACT Australian of the Year nominee Alan Tongue. Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the keynote speech by Mr Tongue. However, through my portfolio I am well aware of the fantastic work he does with young people, including at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre through his Aspire program.

Many in our community will be familiar with the great work that Menslink does to provide support and services for young men between the ages of 10 and 25. We know that men in this age bracket are at particular risk of bullying, relationship or family breakdown, unemployment, underemployment and insecure employment. The young men Menslink work with may face drug and alcohol dependency, gambling addiction, depression or anxiety. They may have had an experience of family violence and be struggling to manage their anger and hurt without themselves resorting to violence. Some are at high risk of suicide. We also know that these young men do not always know how to ask for help.

Menslink actively engages with and offers support to all young men who may be having a tough time. Menslink offers a range of services to assist young men in our community in different ways, as well as advocating and raising community awareness of the issues affecting our young men. Menslink’s free counselling helps young men identify and access resources in order to bring about positive changes in their lives. Their mentoring program connects vulnerable young men aged 13 to 18 with male mentors who provide one-on-one guidance and the safe, supportive relationship that many of our young men unfortunately lack.

I would like to make particular mention of Menslink’s “Silence is deadly” presentations on mental health, which have grown to reach 10,300 young men in our community. This program brings male speakers—including, this year, players and cadets from the Canberra Raiders—into schools in our region to address young men on the importance of speaking out about the issues they face.

I cannot talk about Menslink without also acknowledging the army of dedicated volunteers that support the organisation. The value to our community of the work done by Menslink’s unpaid supporters is immeasurable. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all who contribute to the health, wellbeing, safety and success of Canberra’s young men through their work with Menslink. And I would like to encourage any and all men who feel they have the time and temperament to become a Menslink mentor to seriously consider doing so.

Madam Speaker, our efforts to support society’s most vulnerable must not be presented as a competition between one group or another. We must of course identify when a particular group faces a particular problem and focus our resources accordingly, but we cannot and should not attempt to turn against each other to compete for empathy or attention. I am proud to support Menslink and the great work they do, just as I am proud to support all Canberrans who step up to help those in need. Lastly, I would like to thank the CEO of Menslink, Martin Fisk, for all the work he has done to help young men make better choices to engage positively with society.

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