Young Australians – Adjournment
27 Jul | '2022
Congratulations on your elevation to chair of this House, Mr Speaker. Firstly, I would like reiterate my thanks to the Leader of the Opposition for providing me the opportunity to serve as his
shadow minister for early childhood education and youth. Supporting our young Australians is something that I’ve been passionate about for a very long time. The last few years have really been quite difficult for so many young people across the nation, with floods, bushfires and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which we know affected so many in year 11 and year 12 and right across the education spectrum. My thoughts are with them. While I know that these devastating events have disrupted the lives of so many young Australians, it’s important that we focus on ensuring that there are no longer-term impacts. It’s never been more important than it is now to ensure that young Australians can access the support and services that they need, when and where they need them.
Unlike the government, our side of the chamber has always been focused on supporting young Australians, to ensure that they are engaged and that they feel empowered, whether through creating additional education and training places, through our record funding in mental health—including through various programs, such as headspace and our flagship Head to Health centres—or through arts and sports programs. I know firsthand just how important it is that young people feel supported, feel heard and feel that they can make a difference. That’s why my focus as shadow minister for youth will be on empowering young Australians and ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed no matter where they live or where they come from. I want young Australians to be able to find and pursue their passions. That’s what makes a difference, whether it’s music, sport, drama, learning a new skill or volunteering in their local community. These are all very meaningful engagements for young people across their young lives. I want them to feel valued. I want them to feel important and ultimately to feel happy about their lives and feel hope in their plans for the future.
I was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity from Rotary International when I was very young—about 17. I was able to be a Rotary exchange student abroad. I spent 12 months in Denmark, and it transformed my life. It was the opportunity that put my life on a different path. I thank Rotary International and still owe them a great debt of gratitude. I can’t say no to them when they ask me to speak in the community! That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about supporting young Australians and ensuring they can access the same sorts of life opportunities that I was able to access in a very large public school in South Australia—certainly not from a privileged background. We don’t have to do it alone. There are thousands of other amazing organisations apart from Rotary International that offer opportunities for young people, and organisations in the community that extend fantastic work.
I’m proud to say that in Southport, in my electorate of Moncrieff, there’s an organisation called MOB Academy, the Men of Business Academy. They call them the mobsters—young men who perhaps don’t feel happy about their future or feel disaffected with what’s happening at home or in their lives can go along to MOB Academy and finish year 11 or 12 or indeed do a Certificate III or IV. MOB Academy recently opened their new driving school, which has also come from funding across the community. It’s very impressive to see what Marco Renai and his partners there at MOB Academy do and how they have assisted over 1,000 young men. The catchcry on the wall in their rooms and their foyer is ‘building better men’. I really support those intervention programs that give young people—men and young girls, of course—the opportunity to build something in their lives. Their programs mix education and life skills, and they’ve had some fantastic outcomes with some federal government funding through the Stronger Communities Program but also from my very generous corporate community across the Gold Coast, who support those sorts of programs and particularly Men of Business. I did support it myself, but mainly it’s the business community that get behind Men of Business. Sadly, suicide remains the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15 to 24, and we need to make sure that we move forward to zero suicides and put intervention programs and mental health programs in place that help our youth moving forward.