Speech by The Hon Sussan Ley MP

Address to the Youth Activities Services and Family Liaison Worker Future Directions Forum

Location: Melbourne


I would like to thank Joy Murphy for her welcome to country on behalf of the Wurundjeri Aboriginal People and I thank the elders and traditional owners for allowing us to meet here on their land today.

It is a great pleasure to be with you all here at this forum, which will consider future directions for the Youth Activity Service (YAS) and Family Liaison Worker (FLW) programme.

After 15 years of operation it is timely to have evaluated the programme performance and to reflect on how best we can improve its future effectiveness.

As you have been informed by the Department of Family and Community Services, there are some real challenges ahead to ensure these services remain viable and targeted towards areas of real need throughout Australia.

We need to ensure we have an effective programme performance framework in place with a clearly identified set of goals and outcomes.

The “renewed” programme should also maintain a strong focus on prevention and early intervention work with young people and their families in high needs communities.

Our programme goals should be to improve young people’s capacity and resilience, to strengthen the resilience of their families and to increase their active participation in the community.

I am sure that our combined efforts will ensure optimum results and effectiveness into the future.


As you are aware, YAS was first established in 1990 to support young Australians aged 11 to16 years and their families.

Initial distribution of YAS services was based on areas identified as high need. Priority was given to disadvantaged areas with a large proportion of young people aged 11 to 16 years in the population.

The programme was extended in 1997 to include a specific family component, the Family Liaison Worker (FLW) and while FLW was added on it was often not integrated with YAS.

There are 96 YAS services nationally including five Adventure Playgrounds in Melbourne’s inner urban suburbs and almost all are co-located with an FLW.

YAS/FLW services in rural and remote areas are broadly focussed, but there are 10 Indigenous specific YAS/FLW services and 17 services with a strong Indigenous focus.

The Independent Evaluation of the YAS/FLW programme by RPR Consulting began in 2003 and concluded in 2004.

Key issues

The Howard Government is strongly committed to helping Australia’s young people.

This was clearly demonstrated in last week’s Budget, which contained a broad range of assistance measures for young people in education, training, health, Indigenous specific programmes and social welfare.

In the FaCS portfolio, young carers will get a one-off $1000 lump sum for those receiving the Carer Payment or $600 per eligible care receiver for those who receive Carer Allowance.

Young women will benefit from $125 million provided to the Women’s Leadership and Development Programme, which will include a new Mentoring Programme and funds to develop sports leadership skills.

More than $397 million invested in the New Family Law System will help young people experiencing family breakdown by providing extra support to their families including 65 Family Relationship Centres, a national telephone advice line and website.

Young people at risk of homelessness will get help from a $10 million National Homelessness Strategy with a focus on prevention and reduction of the problem.

The Government is further demonstrating its commitment with $6.9 million for the YAS/FLW Programme in 2005–06.

The Australian Government funds other youth programmes administered by FaCS – Reconnect, Mentor Marketplace and Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA).

The Budget has provided $22.6 million of extended funding for Mentor Marketplace and TILA over four years.

Mentor Marketplace has been converted from a pilot programme to provide mentoring opportunities for young people, particularly the disadvantaged, and will help them stay connected with family, community, education, training and the workplace.

There will be $12 million to support up to 12 existing Mentor Marketplace projects and up to 15 new projects.

TILA will get another $10.6 million to assist young people to move from state supported care to independent living.

Eligibility criteria will be expanded for the one-off allowance of up to $1000 in goods or services, which will help ease some of the strains of seeking private accommodation, education and/or jobs.

Initiatives outside of FaCS include a $25 million anti-smoking campaign and $21.8 million increased funding to help young people say no to illegal drugs.

From July 1 young people will benefit from income tax exemption for the Commonwealth Trade Learning Scholarships, and the Government is also providing $21 million additional funding to establish the Financial Literacy Foundation.

In the $2.5 billion funding for vocational and technical education there is a $143 million boost for career advice to young people, the establishment of 24 Australian Technical Colleges for 7200 Year 11 and 12 students and extension of the Youth Allowance to apprentices and Austudy and Abstudy for over 25s at a cost of $537 million.

There are scholarships for apprentices in skill shortage areas at a cost of $106 million and tool kits provided to apprentices in these areas at a cost of $120 million.

Schools spending during 2005-06 will total $8.5 billion.

There is $505 million for Indigenous students and $427 million for 43,000 scholarships to help disadvantaged students meet education costs.

There are $2 billion in discounts and income-contingent loans to help student pay their fees and $32 million has been set aside to provide students with better facilities and more course options.

Youth Allowance recipients with disabilities who have a capacity to work between 15 and 29 hours will get the Pensioner Concession Card, the Pharmaceutical Allowance and Telephone Allowance.

The Youth Allowance income test will also be relaxed to enable recipients to earn more money before losing any payment and $17 million will be used to expand the Aboriginal Employment Strategy.

Prevention and early intervention work is always extremely challenging but diversionary programmes, such as YAS/FLW, are considered by government to be most effective in improving youth’s future prospects.

The relevance of early intervention strategies depends on the active involvement of the very people we are seeking to assist – and on being able to mobilise the community’s capacity to provide the range of support needed.

This can only be achieved if local agencies and stakeholders, including young people and their families, were to work cooperatively together.

YAS/FLW services are about improving young people’s lives and giving them the skills, knowledge, confidence and ability to be better equipped to deal with life’s issues.

They are about building young people’ resilience and in turn building the resilience of families and communities.

This focus on stronger, more resilient families and communities has been and will continue to be key business for FaCS.

The services that you so successfully provide in your communities help ensure that the young people that you support are given the best possible start in life.

Those services also help to ensure that the families you work with are better equipped to deal with changing social and economic circumstances.

I strongly encourage you to continue working in the collaborative way in which you undertake your work, which makes a tremendous impact on your local communities.

I know that you all apply Good Practice Principles to your work and the Evaluation has rightly commended your application of these principles and the impact this has made in your communities.

I have had a look at the Good Practice Guides that were a result of the Good Practice Forums that many of you attended last year. It is impressive what you are managing to achieve on the ground.

Your role in the community is valued and these forums are important for us to get you views on how to implement good practice in relation to the changes that we are making to the programme.

The services you provide have made a difference and do lead the way.

I have been impressed to read some of the case studies about YAS/FLW activities around Australia including camps organised for parents and their children in Victoria and Western Australia.

The YAS/FLW worker from the City of Casey in Victoria organises four weekend camps for mothers/carers and daughters and fathers/carers and sons so that parents can spend one-on-one time with their children.

The camps are low cost so that they are accessible by low income families and offer a range of fun and challenging activities like the mothers and daughters camp which includes physical activities such as canoeing, flying fox and ropes courses as well as pampering facials and manicures.

These camps allow young people and their parents to build their relationships in a supportive environment and learn new skills together.

The physical activities are designed to boost the self-confidence and esteem of both the young people and their parents.

The camps have proven to be very successful and are always fully booked out. More than 50 families have taken part during the last two years and six mothers have returned with their second daughters because they have found the experience so rewarding.

As one of the girls commented, “it means I can have Mum to myself”.

The Armadale YAS/FLW in Perth has developed a similar project with a 10 weeks course including the same sorts of challenging physical activities.

The course differs, however, by culminating in a seven days 81 kilometre hike during which young people and their parents share tents and cook meals together.

The hike allows young people to see their parents as vulnerable as they struggle to carry heavy packs and deal with the physical stress of the journey.

In turn, parents see their children in a new light as being extremely resourceful and resilient individuals, which gives them a new level of respect for them.

The Tangentyere Council YAS in Alice Springs runs arts and crafts programs involving older and younger women, which have proven to be very successful by allowing women to meet in a non-threatening environment and have some ownership of the program and its outcomes.

Through the arts and crafts programs, the female staff has also been able to introduce other programs relating to issues such as sexual health, domestic violence, substance abuse and caring for kids.

These issues have been able to be tackled through the involvement of other agencies.

By using arts and crafts workshops as a vehicle to address wider life issues it has helped to make people more comfortable than if they were at a workshop for sexual health, for example.

Working with smaller groups can also be very positive as people tend to listen and discuss more of what’s on their minds and the service is using the same approach with young men’s groups.

YASFLW services such as the City of Belmont in Western Australia bring Indigenous young people together with young people from other cultural backgrounds.

Such services promote cross-cultural respect and understanding and can also incorporate information sessions on the negative effects of alcohol and other drugs.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for the incredible work you are doing in your communities.

The Evaluation has shown you have been doing great things and you are giving young people valuable life and interpersonal skills, which help them to develop to their full potential.

The findings of the Evaluation have been outlined earlier today and what FaCS would like to do now is act on its recommendations to improve the programme.

It is important that we act on the findings of the Evaluation to improve things for you as service providers and improve service delivery to young people and their families.

We want to move on with a cohesive and co-ordinated programme, which capitalises on the collaborative relationships you have already built up within and between your services.

Tomorrow you will get an update on the performance framework that is being developed for both the YAS/FLW and Reconnect programmes.

I’ve been very encouraged to hear about your participation in the process to date.

I am also excited that after many years you will be able to show a more comprehensive picture of the work that you are doing and your achievements in building capacity and social capital.

Thank you and I wish you all well in carrying out your deliberations at this forum and then building for the future in your own communities.