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6 April 2011
To Mr OʼFarrell, Ministers and members of the NSW government,
On behalf of the Youth Action and Policy Association NSW (YAPA) I would like to congratulate you on your significant victory in the recent NSW Election. YAPA looks forward to working with your government over the next four years and beyond towards better outcomes for young people aged 12-25 years.
YAPA was formed in 1990 under the previous coalition government as the peak body for young people and youth services in NSW. YAPA works towards a society where all young people are supported, engaged, and valued.
We write to the collective, as we are unclear on who in the new government is responsible to the complex needs of young people across NSW.
YAPA acknowledges and appreciates the many opportunities a change in government may offer young people as we make NSW number one again. As you prepare for your work ahead, we request that you consider how your government will maintain a commitment to the many and varied needs of young people in NSW. These are needs that often transcend departmental boundaries, including education, entertainment and the arts, sport and recreation, community and youth services, housing and homelessness, juvenile justice, young offenders and policing, health, mental health, Aboriginal affairs, roads and public transport.
The feedback directly from young people at the Youth Q&A forums convened by Mr OʼFarrellʼs office, attended by coalition MPs/candidates and supported directly by YAPA in the lead up to the election, highlight the complexity and cross-departmental nature of these issues discussed above. Therefore we believe that the government needs to take a comprehensive and holistic approach to youth affairs and YAPA is both willing and able to continue supporting this process.
To this end, we are concerned that not appointing a minister for youth affairs may have serious implications for the status of young people in government policy determination. We ask that you consider how you will maintain a whole of government commitment to the many and varied needs of young people without a clearly nominated portfolio for young people to engage with on their specific issues.
In addition, we would like to draw your attention to several key priority areas affecting young people in NSW, and invite you to respond on these issues to ensure that the young people of NSW are supported, engaged, and valued:
- Providing certainty to existing services that were required to re-tender over the Christmas period for over $9m under the Better Futures funding program, to address the failure of the previous Labor government to sign off on essential youth services funding by their own deadline. We further request that the three years of funding offered for new services are offered without unnecessary further delay.
- Committing to continue and increase funding of youth support services in other programs that are flexible enough to address the diverse needs of vulnerable young people (including working with their communities and families), including continued support for youth programs under the former Community Services Grants Program.
- Committing to the preservation of a Human Rights approach to young people in contact with the justice system, including diversionary and restorative approaches to youth justice, the operation of a separate Department of Juvenile Justice and a fair, evidence-based and diversionary Young Offenders Act;
- Continuing the role of the Commissioner for Children and Young People as a strong and independent advisor to Government on young peopleʼs issues;
We look forward to the governmentʼs response, and to working collaboratively to achieve an equitable and fair NSW for all young people.
YAPA Chief Executive