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Rosemary Armitage MLC 

Legislative Council

Seat: Launceston

Party: Independent


Thursday 26 March 2015

Launceston PCYC Pathfinder Program

Mr President, today I am speaking about the wonderful work the PCYC Launceston is doing with at-risk youth through its Pathfinder Program.  Senior Constable Ross McIvor oversees this program as PCYC Launceston's club officer.  The Pathfinder Program has been going for approximately six months.  It is a collaborative project between PCYC Launceston and TasTAFE at Alanvale, which aims to support 16 to 19-year-olds to find direction and purpose.  Many of these young people do not go to school, and some have not been to school on a regular basis since year 7.  Many are not literate and will not go to Centrelink to look for work or apply for their driver's licence because they cannot read or fill out forms.  When they begin their course many are largely unemployable.

Program participants often have a difficult home life, and many have no self-belief or ambition.  Ross McIvor says they are just surviving day to day.  Life for these kids is tough.  Many of us in this Chamber are parents or grandparents, and it is confronting to know that in our community there are young people who do not believe in themselves and who are facing such big life challenges at such a relatively young age.  Pathfinder is about giving troubled youth a sense of achievement.  It is about team and character building, and building relationships and trust.

Ross McIvor says many of them are really good kids deep down; they are just seeking opportunity.  The words, 'I believe in you', are powerful and are at the heart of PCYC Launceston's mission to support these young people.  The program takes about 18 to 20 participants at a time.  They have three days out at Alanvale TAFE, working on literacy and numeracy and learning work skills as they go.  Education programs are tailored to the individual's needs.  The program lasts for about six months, but participants can stay on as long as they need. 

During the week they clean the PCYC Launceston building, they do maintenance and help with grounds' landscaping to learn valuable work skills.  They also have fitness sessions, utilising a different program called Operation Resilience.  It is high-intensity exercise focusing on conditioning and endurance, much like boot camp.  Ross McIvor says it is about giving them the skills to cope with challenges in their lives.  He says the kids love that challenge and have a real sense of 'man, I have survived and I have done it'.  There is an immense sense of personal satisfaction and achievement.

An addition to the team is Launceston boxing coach Graeme George, who will run a boxing program for participants.  Over the years Graeme has coached many aspiring young boxers, most notably world champion middleweight boxer Launceston's Daniel Geale, as a junior.

The boxing program will give the young people a sense of self-respect, discipline and a safe outlet to vent their frustrations.  Outdoor recreation is also an important part of the program and by the middle of this year the range of outdoor recreational activities offered will include bushwalking, mountain biking, canoeing, abseiling and rock climbing.

Ross McIvor developed the Pathfinder based on a combination of his own desire to make a difference in the lives of young people and inspiration from a successful program for at-risk youth in Melbourne, Operation Newstart.  Newstart has been running for 15 years in Victoria.  The idea that physical activity can teach valuable life skills and help young people needing direction lit a spark in Ross McIvor when he returned to Tasmania.

Ross believes that achieving fitness help a person to find their life's purpose and direction.  He consulted widely with governments, the education department in Tasmania, Tasmania Police and many community groups about setting up a similar program to Newstart to help support troubled young people.  The aim was to value-add to existing programs.

In 2014 an MOU was signed between Tasmania Police and the state PCYC, which directed police to run programs for at-risk youth.  Launceston is the only location in Tasmania where the Pathfinder Program is currently offered, but the hope is that down the track it may be offered in more places. 

Ross McIvor says he is inspired by the opportunity to help participants realise their potential.  He says there is one young person who is 16- or 17-years old - he is addicted to the drug known as ice, and has been in and out of foster care his whole life.  This young man has not been in school since year 7 and currently he is in his first month of the program.  He will be there for as long as he needs.  Participants with drug problems are able to undertake drug rehabilitation and that opportunity is available for this participant. 

Pathfinder has received verbal bipartisan support at a state and federal level and recently received $97 000 from our State Government, which will go towards much needed renovation works in the part of the PCYC facility where the Pathfinder Program is run.  There are significant ongoing day-to-day financial costs which must be met, and the club welcomes any support.  They are currently utilising funds from a one-off donation provided by the WD Booth Charitable Trust to cover some of the operating costs, but they will need to seek further ongoing funding in order to continue providing the necessary assistance once these funds have been fully expended.

Some of the participants cannot afford basics like clothes and shoes.  Many of these young people do not have money for decent food and this is also provided during the program in order to help them have the nutrition they need to function properly.  People can donate to the Launceston PCYC through the state PCYC body, which has deductible gift recipient status.

It is not hard to be moved by the potential of this program to change young lives for the better, particularly when you hear Senior Constable McIvor say, 'I would do anything for these kids'.  That is the spirit and the intent of the program - to let these young people know they have someone in their corner who believes in their ability to make a positive difference in their community.

I commend the fine work of the incredible Launceston PCYC Pathfinder Program and I thank those involved for their tireless support of our young people.

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