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Shift in government focus forces closures by Les Lane 22 October 2013


he cessation of Federal Government funding for diversionary programs has left Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation (MPREC) with no option other than to close the doors of Youth Centres in the Coonamble, Goodooga, Gulargambone and Menindee communities, where the centres, until now, have been operated by the corporation. The Youth Centres have proved to be extremely popular in the 4 communities, where attendance is predominantly Indigenous young people. Funded by the Federal Attorney General Department, Youth Centre funding has been moved down in priority, with fund resources now focussing on post incarceration support. ‘These changes always pose challenges for community-based organisations such as MPREC’, Janelle Whitehead (pictured), Corporation CEO, explained, ‘as we rely on government funding to deliver these programs that are important to the communities. Youth Centre attendance has steadily increased to more than 800 attendees per month across the 4 communities’. A significant number of attendees were involved in crime diversion focussed programs, mainly consisting of sporting activities after school hours and during the holiday periods. Youth Centres were a safe place, keeping young people off the street by providing somewhere to go. Community leaders quickly acknowledge the value these centres provided and

praised the flow-on effects they delivered. Youth focussed programs have been given a high priority by MPREC, since 2005. It is significant to note that several attendees went on to sign up for other programs that are very successful, for instance the Murdi Paaki Aboriginal Young Leaders program, which has been instrumental in young people staying at school, entering into career positions and going on to

tertiary education. ‘It is unfortunate that these forced closures will leave a large gap in communities, with the potential to have unexpected flowon consequences resulting from young people left with nothing much to do’, commented Ms Whitehead. Youth Centres operated by MPREC in the 4 communities closed their doors Friday 11th October. There is no sign of when, or indeed if, they will re-open. Page 1

Shift in government focus forces closures