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MP rejects claims about youth cash

Monday, 18th November, 2013

By Andrew Robertson

Member for Farrer Sussan Ley has rejected a peak Aboriginal group’s claim it was forced to close four youth centres because government funding had been redirected.

The youth centres in Coonamble, Goodooga, Gulargambone and Menindee closed early last month, with the loss of 12 jobs.

They ran crime prevention programs for mainly indigenous children who participated in after-school and holiday activities. 

The Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation (MPREC) said it was forced to close the centres because the federal Attorney-General Department redirected funding to post incarceration support programs. 

According to the MPREC, around 400 children visited the Menindee centre each month before its closure, putting two people out of work.

But Member for Farrer Ms Ley said she understood it was the MPREC that did not renew its funding agreement with the Attorney General Department.

“The existing funding agreement for the youth centre ended on the 30th of June,” Ms Ley said.

“They did not reapply for funding. As yet I haven’t had a conversation as to why not.”

The MP said she wanted to see a youth centre back in Menindee and had raised the issue with new federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, who was doing further investigations.

She also plans to meet with the chairman of the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, Sam Jefferies, in Canberra early next month to “find out how we can best support” the community.

“I went to Menindee recently and met with (former youth centre workers) and I completely understand we need a youth facility in Menindee and that’s my aim.”

 MPREC CEO Janelle Whitehead told the BDT last month that since opening the first youth centre nine years ago they had become a major success and focus of the organisation.

She described the closures as “gut-wrenching”, and blamed the Attorney General Department which had “changed the ballgame” in relation to funding.

Ms Whitehead also warned it would lead to an increase in crime because children would become bored.

But Ms Ley said the statement released by the MPREC announcing the closures was simply not factual.

“I don’t want to have an argument with them; I want to work with Murdi Paaki to resolve the issues in Menindee.

“But I don’t accept their statement and I don’t accept the statement that they were forced to close the centre.

“They receive, under various government contracts, significant Commonwealth funding.”

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