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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (4.25 p.m.) —I am delighted to participate in this debate and I want to thank the member for Greenway for bringing it on. Federal members in Western Sydney have an important leadership role in regard to our youth, and we ought to be taking up the challenge of encouraging federal, state and local authorities to pay attention to the needs of our youth.

Nobody else seems to be able to fill this function of drawing attention to the needs of youth as well as federal members can, if they wish to do so. To have a forum within our office or some other public place, often in cooperation with state and local governments, where we can start to draw out the issues of concern to young people, I think is a leadership role that we ought to willingly accept.

The problems in Western Sydney are significant but that does not mean to say that Western Sydney is a hopeless basket case. It is a most wonderful area and I really resent, with other members, the tag that is so often given to it. The people, both the older residents and the young people, have so much going for them that they have almost built a counterculture which says, `We are the West; we are proud of it; we can do it and we are better than the rest.' I endorse and support that attitude which says, `Yes, we ignore those critical comments; we ignore those people that want to put us down; we ignore those that want to say that we are second best. We will rise above that and go on and create a reputation for commitment, for hard work, for willingness to be able to overcome adversity.' I believe that that is the true heart of Western Sydney and that is the way the people feel about their opportunities. When people put down the west, it is something that I will always speak against. It is not a true representation of Western Sydney.

There are some areas that do need attention. Transport is a continuing worry for young people, because it is very hard for them to get around and they are mostly reliant on private bus services. Travelling can be a difficulty. That is something that is constantly raised with me. The problem of a lack of facilities is often raised in the region. I find amongst my colleagues in local government an unwillingness to look at these issues and see how we can enter into a partnership to provide facilities for the youth. I guess that part of the problem is that young people are only young for a short period of time and local governments have longer-term plans and therefore make commitments for longer-term projects. I do not agree that that is necessarily a good process.

There is great cultural diversity. Employment opportunities have changed, as my colleague has said. I have noticed that, within the area of Fairfield, for instance, since 1995 unemployment amongst youth has dropped from 30.1 per cent to 22.6 per cent. It is still too high and we still need to work on it with lots of energy and lots of commitment. This government has initiated a number of programs in the family services area—for families and for relationships between fathers and their families. Right across the west, these programs are running and there are commitments of multimillion dollars. I think that we need to lift the awareness of some of the programs available to the west. In family relationships, in family education services, there was a commitment in 1998 of $6.1 million, and that is a continuing commitment. There will be more announcements this week. There are the contact orders pilot scheme and the Youth Activities Services— there are nine activities across Western Sydney under the YAS program. I have met recently with the people operating that program. They were in my electorate and it was a really wonderful occasion to spend time having a sandwich with them and working out what their priorities are. It was particularly helpful to me, and I have given that information to the minister. There is the Reconnect services program operating in Penrith, the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury. [start page 3463]

These are all terrific programs, but we all need to take a continuing role of support for our young people. The way that that is best done is to draw them together as the member has, to find out what their needs are, to find out how we can assist them and to devise programs. Often their needs are hard to define and it takes the skill of an older person or somebody in a position of responsibility to work out precisely how we can assist them. I want to thank the member for raising these issues. I participated in a forum of this type last week, with great benefit.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 17th June 2002
Release Date: 2 Jul 2002


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