Thank you, Madam Speaker. I wish to say a few words in support of the Canberra Police Community Youth Club, or PCYC, and especially of its Project Booyah. Project Booyah is an established leadership and mentor program that was initially developed by the Queensland Police Service five years ago. An independent review by Griffith University last year found that participation in the program significantly reduces criminal attitudes whilst increasing self-esteem and improving family relationships.
Thanks to a grant from the Federal Liberal Government, the Canberra PCYC is now able to make Project Booyah available for at-risk young people aged 14 to 17 years in the ACT region. It was my privilege to attend the launch of this program on the eighth of December last year when Senator Zed Seselja formally announced the Australian Government’s financial support.
On that day, I got to meet the first cohort of young people who would participate in this important program designed to address disengagement from family, community and education. Over the course of the next 20 weeks, these young people experienced adventure-based learning, social development, skills training, mentoring and case work along with literacy and numeracy education. Six of the seven participants also received Certificate II qualifications from the Canberra Institute of Technology.
Last month I got to meet with these young people again as I attended their graduation along with Senator Seselja, fellow Liberal MLA Nicole Lawder, ACT Chief Police Officer Justine Suanders, and Canberra PCYC President Jayson Hinder. (I pause here, Madam Speaker, to note the tragic passing of Mr Hinder, to offer my sincere condolences to his family, and to pay tribute to his lengthy record of community service in the ACT, including seven years as a PCYC board member. So many of us are grateful for his passionate support of numerous community organisations.)
At the graduation event, I was thrilled to see the growth and development that had occurred in the lives of these young people over the course of their involvement with Project Booyah. Their faces shone with a confidence that I had not seen in them before, and they spoke excitedly with me about future opportunities now that their lives are, in the words of one of them, ‘back on track’. I loved seeing the changes that have come into their lives as they have re-engaged with family, community and education.
I pay tribute to Executive Manager Cheryl O’Donnell and to all of the staff members at Canberra PCYC who work so hard and with so much genuine compassion to help at-risk young people. Project Booyah is just one of many programs that these dedicated staff provide; others include various diversions programs, respect and anger-management programs, parenting programs and programs for young traffic offenders as well as after-school sports.
I congratulate the PCYC staff for instilling hope by maintaining frequent contact and providing needed encouragement to these youth. The advocacy for these vulnerable young people’s progress and development is honourable, and I’m grateful for the great example of the PCYC staff.