Today (12th of February 2014) was a pretty big day for the Youth Space! That’s kind of an understatement. We’re all in a state of shock! :o)
As any Queenslander knows, our state has taken a battering over the last couple of years… major weather related disasters, the GFC, a mining boom that kinda stopped booming… and lots of other stuff. What it’s all drilled down to is this – there’s a lot less money in the Queensland coffers.
The horrible thing about all of that is that when a state has a lot of debt, things get cut and no-one is immune to that, including the community sector.
In Redcliffe we also had some other stuff going on, and that other stuff crippled our community. We lost a valuable community organisation called the Regional Community Association (our old Neighbourhood Centre) and our former State Member resigned from Parliament amid some controversy.
In the community sector, you depend on your State Member a lot. They advocate for you, they alert you to funding when it’s available, they talk about you to businesses and they write references for you so your applications can be considered. State Member’s are vital to an organisation’s ability to do it’s work. Not having a member meant we had no one to represent us in Parliament and to request a fair share of funding for the businesses, community organisations and people of Redcliffe.
So, we were way behind the eight ball.
Before our former member resigned last year, he was fined $90,ooo for misleading the Parliament of Queensland.
On the 11th of February, the former member paid that debt, and it initiated a chain of events that have left the staff and Management Committee of the Youth Space stunned. In a really good way!
This is how it all played out, for those of you who are interested:
11 Feb 2014, early in the morning: The former State Member for Redcliffe paid the fine requested by the Parliament of Queensland.
11 Feb 2014, mid-morning: The Parliament of Queensland was advised by the Clerk of the Parliament that the fine had been paid. The Treasurer suggested to the Premier that rather than take that $90,000 and put it into the State coffers, the State should give the money to a community organisation in Redcliffe that did good work but was struggling as a result of the government’s austerity measures. The Premier agreed. He discussed the suggestion with the Speaker of the House who thought it was a wonderful idea, and a fitting way to acquit that money.
11 Feb 2014, late in the morning: Because Redcliffe does not currently have a state member, the Premier contacted his government’s candidate for the upcoming By-Election, Ms Kerri-Anne Dooley, and asked her which community organisation in Redcliffe had been hardest hit by the governments austerity measures. Kerri, like a few of the candidates in the running for the State Seat of Redcliffe, offered up our name. Luckily, the Premier, who had recently met our CEO, knew who we were and agreed. He asked Kerri to contact our CEO to see if he could be free to meet with the Premier and the Speaker of the House (the Honourable Fiona Simpson) on the morning of the 12th. Kerri contacted our CEO, advised him a motion would soon be moved in Parliament that could help our organisation, and if it was approved would he be free to meet with the Premier. The CEO said “sure thing!” Kerri said she’d get back to him with more info when she could.
11 Feb 2014, sometime that afternoon: The motion was passed!
11 Feb 2014, sometime that evening: Kerri called our CEO to give him all the details.
This is where the story gets really weird. People will think our CEO is certifiably insane, but he asked Kerri to call the Premier and suggested the government might want to reconsider.
We know! WTF?
Yes, our organisation has been doing it hard – but so have a lot of other organisations. But no one has been doing it harder than the former staff of the RCA who lost their jobs and didn’t get their entitlements. Our CEO is a bit of an odd one. He tends to think of other people more than he thinks of himself (and often thinks of other organisations before he thinks of ours – we might have to break him of that habit).
Our CEO asked Kerri to ask the Premier to give the money to the staff of the RCA. Kerri agreed it was a wonderful idea and promised to speak to the Premier.
11 Feb 2014, a little while later: Kerri had contacted the Premier, who explained why that couldn’t happen:
1. Any money given to the RCA would go to the liquidators (that organisation is still in liquidation), and the former staff would never see a cent of it.
2. The money owed to the former staff of the RCA is a mix of federal and state money. The Queensland Government only provided about a third of the funding the RCA received, with the Commonwealth providing the rest. The Premier advised that there were already actions in place to ensure those people received their payouts at some point in the near future (which is great news).
11 Feb 2014, that night: Kerri called our CEO back and gave him that information, and he accepted the government’s incredible offer.
12 Feb 2014, 11:00am: Our CEO, along with Carmel from Chameleon House (who came along to support our CEO as his colleague), met with the Premier and the Speaker of the House as well as other State Members and Cabinet Ministers, who explained why the government was doing what they were doing.
12 Feb 2014, 11:40am: A lot of journalists later, the Youth Space’s CEO was presented with a bloody big cheque. When asked by journalists why the money wasn’t just going into the government coffers, the Speaker of the House, the Honourable Fiona Simpson said “because this is the right decision. It’s the right thing to do.” If you’ve ever wanted to see a big bald tattooed man cry, you should have been there. He almost did.
So that’s the story!
A lot of people have called to congratulate the Youth Space, and some to say it’s nothing more than a political ploy because there is a By-Election in less than two weeks.
To those who have called to thank us, the Youth Space thanks you for your support! Some of you have burst into tears because you were worried we’d close down. Some of you just came in and bear hugged us. The young people who need our service have been literally ecstatic. Though we have tried not to show the young men and women we work with the stresses we’ve been under, when staff disappear it’s not hard to add one plus one together and come up with two. So, that giant cheque we were presented with has done many laps around the Youth Space today with dozens of young people whooping for joy (and offering to buy it off us for $10)!
To those who have suggested it’s “pork-barrelling” (which is just the weirdest word ever), you are certainly entitled to your opinion but we ask that you respect us and the struggle we’ve been through and just be happy for us.
Every day we are working with young people with serious drug and alcohol addictions, debilitating mental health issues, and worse. Yes, there is worse. On a quiet day we will only see about 30 young people. On a busy day, we’ll see up to 150. Not every issue is life threatening or even overly intense, but we’ll get one or two of them a day and that can take up every moment of the entire team’s day depending on the level of crisis. Most people don’t get what we do, and don’t care – until they need us. And we’re okay with that, but we feel it’s important to know that we literally save lives. Dozens and Dozens every year. Every youth service does. KYC in Caboolture does. DBCYP in Deception Bay does. Chameleon House here in Redcliffe does.
Not every young person a youth service works with needs such serious help, some just need someone to listen to them, or help them with challenging but not overly critical stuff, and some just need a friendly face, but every day youth workers around this state are putting their lives and their emotional well being on the line to work with those young people no one else can work with.
We’re not asking for sympathy because youth workers no matter where they work choose to do this work. We’re just asking people not to politicise this incredible gift.
To close off this ridiculously long post, it’s important we thank a few people. For those of you who have been following us for years, you know we like to give credit where credit it due. Some people may try to read something political into this, but for those who have been with us a while you are well aware we gave thanks whenever it’s deserved. We’ve given it to the Bligh and Beattie governments, the Howard and Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments, and hopefully we’ll get the chance to give it to the Abbott government (they’re pretty new, so we’re going to give them some time before we hit them up) – and right now, we’re giving it to the Newman government.
It’s sticky ground, because there’s a By-Election going on out there on the Peninsula and there are seven amazing people working really hard at trying to get elected for all the right reasons – because they want to serve the people of Redcliffe.
So, our first thanks will go to three of those candidates, who have come to us and asked us what they can do to help us: Talosaga McMahon, Yvette D’Ath and Kerri-Anne Dooley. Thank you for standing by us, checking in with us constantly, and for talking to everyone you can for us in an attempt to help our young people.
The biggest thanks, however, goes to Kerri-Anne. We’ve explained why above, but as a reminder – without her advocacy to the Premier, the Treasurer and various Cabinet Ministers, this would never have happened.
We want to thank the Premier (the Honourable Campbell Newman MP), the Speaker of the House (the Honourable Fiona Simpson MP) and especially the Treasurer (the Honourable Tim Nichols MP) for giving that money back to Redcliffe.
We also express our deepest gratitude to Reg Gully, the State Member for Murrumba who has been there for us when our former State Member was not.
It’s also important we thank the Honourable Tracy Davis MP, the Minister for Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, and the Honourable Jarrod Bleijie MP, the Attorney-General of Queensland and the Minister for Justice. Both Tracy and Jarrod have advocated for our service, championing us where they could because we had no State Member.
Finally, huge thanks to our friends at Chameleon House, and also to Michael Connolly, Shane Newcombe, Martin Hall, Peter Morely, Hugh Thompson, Nette Griggs and Grant Austin (and probably more we can’t think of right now). Together, with our CEO, these people got together to make sure Redcliffe’s issues were heard. When we had no State Member, these community leaders came together as one to make sure Redcliffe had a voice.
In interviews today we were asked what we are going to do with that money? The honest answer is we really don’t know right now! We have a huge drug issue in Redcliffe, and we want to dedicate funds to dealing with that and to getting it out of our skate park – so that’s where we’re going to start. The only thing we can promise you is that every cent will in some way benefit the young people of our community.