It is a real pleasure to speak on this matter of public importance, National Youth Week.
I thank the member for Cootamundra for bringing this matter to the House and for acknowledging the significance and value of young people to New South Wales, and indeed Australia.
Each year we take a week to celebrate the wonderful youth services that are available across the State. We recognise the important and often unappreciated efforts of youth workers. We want to empower young people to express their views, do good work with local groups, and make a positive contribution to the health and vitality of their communities.
National Youth Week is their week and I am honoured to spend a few minutes recognising the contribution they make.
Youth Week events are in full swing across the State. I am particularly proud to say that in my electorate young people can participate in a range of fabulous activities, including theatre performances, a young people's discussion panel, a skate and scooter competition—I know that scooters are the thing these days; they do some cool things with them—dance events, craft workshops and a three-on-three basketball competition that I look forward to attending at PCYC Marrickville.
These events are being organised by some magnificent inner west community organisations that work to support young people. They include the Inner West Council, Inner West Youth Alliance, council libraries, PCYC Marrickville and the Marrickville Youth Resource Centre.
In addition, schools are holding events and the Marrickville Legal Service, which does an essential and frankly extraordinary job of working with vulnerable people in our community, is also marking Youth Week. I welcome the announcement by the Attorney General today to fix the Federal Government funding shortfall and ensure that these essential community legal centres cab continue to provide their services across New South Wales.
While noting the celebrations, it would be remiss of me not to raise some of the challenges that young people face today. I met recently with some youth workers who are a part of the Barnardos Australia Streetwork team.
These workers spend two or so afternoons a week catching trains around the inner west, seeking out young people—particularly young males—and having a chat. These young people often face incredibly complex social needs and pressures, and at times their vulnerabilities manifest in antisocial behaviour. I was invited to spend an afternoon with Leonard, John and Paula. It was an empowering and profoundly inspirational experience. I met them at Sydenham station and we spent a few hours riding on the Sydenham to Bankstown line.
They identified young people and took a few minutes to introduce themselves. They made it clear that they were youth workers and they just wanted to listen. They made sure that each of the young people had the chance to have their say.
The importance of their work to ensure that young people feel heard, acknowledged and valued cannot be underestimated. With each interaction it was obvious that the young person felt a renewed sense of purpose. Of course, those small interactions have a cumulative effect.
It was heartening to see many of the kids who knew Leonard, John and Paula go out of their way to say hi and talk about the activities they had been involved in. As the youth workers develop trust and form stronger relationships with the young people, Barnardos is able to direct them to specialised services as needed.
They form a vital link between young people and important services as well as their families, who may also be in need of support. I was struck by the importance of the youth workers continuing their task. I thank Barnardos for being there for the young people in my electorate.
We know that far too many young people continue to have negative interactions with the law.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, young offenders comprise roughly one-fifth of the total offender population. Often their interactions begin with simple things that sometimes spiral out of control and contribute to complex pressures. A transport fine, a drug detection or an issue with a debt can all lead to far more complex economic and social problems. Unfortunately, they trap young people in crime and poverty. We need to intervene early.
The work of Barnardos and other services is critical because they lift young people out of the cycle and help them realise their full potential. Another thing that can make a difference is the passion and resilience of young people themselves. National Youth Week is a celebration of those qualities. I congratulate the youth workers on their efforts. They are unsung heroes.
I also congratulate all young people across New South Wales who are doing their bit to make us a more compassionate and stronger State.