Youth Refuge Funding
YOUTH REFUGE FUNDING
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health and Community Services. It refers again to the closing of youth and
other refuges. In answering previous questions the Minister informed the House that he has entered into negotiations with certain refuges throughout the State in order to help them better adjust their budget and therefore prevent their closure. Will the Minister inform the House if negotiations have been entered into with the Woy Woy Peninsula Neighbourhood service for its refuge there and Taldumande Youth Refuge at Neutral Bay? If they have not opened negotiations, can these negotiations be now opened?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: On a number of occasions I have stated that where refuges are experiencing difficulties we will enter into negotiations with them. The House may recall the negotiations involved in the young people's refuge which had some prominence in this House. As a consequence of the position I took, $37,000 has now been allocated to that youth refuge which will allow it to overcome the backlog of funding. That refuge is considering reorganisation of its management program. I have earlier referred to the Yeenas Refuge at Gosford, which had some prominence at the time. Following discussions, $12,000 has been allocated to that refuge which is now reorganising its programs. It is coincidental that the case of two other refuges at Gosford has arisen in the past 24 hours. Yesterday a prominent member of the Labor Party, speaking on radio 2BL, complained that these two refuges would be closed as a result of lack of funding. Obviously communication between the board of the refuges and the prominent spokesperson was deficient, because last Friday and on Monday of this week discussions took place between the board and the department. Yesterday afternoon it was confirmed that the reorganisation of those refuges would be considered and funds will be provided to assist them to implement reorganisation.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: What does the Minister mean by reorganisation?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: Reorganisation is a matter for those boards because they are independent organisations; they are not owned by or employees of Government.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Some of them close at certain hours, do they not?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: It is interesting that the Hon. Ann Symonds should interrupt, because she was a very prominent supporter of Frank Walker who raised the question of why New South Wales was not providing funding for this particular refuge in order to be able to expand its operations. Some months ago, because these are joint State and federally funded programs, I wrote to the Hon. Peter Staples supporting the allocation of additional funds for that refuge. We have not received a response. Peter Staples has been saying he will not allocate further money until he works out what will be the implications of the award for the allocation of funds to New South Wales. It is interesting that he has not made the funds available, but is waiting. I only learned last night - and I shall check on this matter today - that while we are waiting for funds, the Labor Party in Canberra has been able to reach agreement with the Labor Party in Victoria and I am told has allocated that State a one-off $10 million, but is not prepared to allocate the funds to New South Wales. Perhaps the Opposition's mate, Staples, has been preoccupied with internecine problems that the Labor Party has in Canberra.
This morning I spoke on the radio with Janet Ryan, who is the co-ordinator of the Youth Accommodation Association and whom I have met previously. She knows my position, that not a single refuge in this State needs to close. I will make funds available to those organisations, but there is a requirement because public funds are involved. As Janet Ryan acknowledged this morning on radio, the managers of the vast majority of these refuges are volunteers who donate their time to provide support to people in the
community. We will provide staff from our organisation, as we are doing, to assist those volunteers to understand the award and work under it. We know the union has misled a number of these organisations as to the way the award should be applied. We will assist the staff of the refuges on how to understand the award and how to work under it. As each refuge identifies that it has a continuing need for funding, so as to continue to work within the joint State and federally approved budgets, then those funds will be given. I give an assurance that people who require service from those refuges will gain that service, and if they do not, it will only be because those refuges made that decision.