Australians are more giving than ever

More Australians than ever are willing to give, according to a survey released this week by Australian Red Cross. The national online survey found that four out of five were likely to help children and young people who need support over the next two years.

This news follows the June release of an examination into donor profiles nationally in June by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies. The report found that police were more likely to give than any other occupation, with 73.61% claiming a gift in their tax returns in 2015-2016. They were closely followed by school principals.

“Police and principals witness the needs in the community first hand,” Police & Community Youth Centres (PCYC) Interim CEO Paul Ferguson explains. “Our programs strike at the very heart of what young people at risk need, and that is support, guidance and in many cases, positive intervention.”

As PCYC enters its 78th year, the need for their services is greater than ever in Western Australia.

“Children are like sponges,” said Ferguson. “The more you give, the more they want. This leads to creating positive role models in their communities, which other young people look toward. They are making a difference simply by being the recipients of care and guidance.”

Matt Bill, WA Young Person of the Year (2017) participated in the Midland PCYC’s basketball program as a teen. He witnessed firsthand the positive changes occurring in young peoples’ lives and was inspired to make a difference in his own community. An Aboriginal, he mentors students to achieve the best educational outcome, spending personal time with young people, even picking them up and dropping them off to school. He is currently on Matt’s Drive For Change to create a documentary that raises awareness on collective issues young people face.

Driving around Western Australia, he is visiting PCYC centres, schools and other youth centres to listen and give young people a voice. Youth Affairs Council WA (YACWA), the leading non-government body representing the young sector in WA, and Lotteries West, are both supporting Matt’s endeavour. Lotteries West has been generous in supporting youth via PCYC with over $120,000 of grants this year.

Ferguson said that Western Australian communities deeply understand the need to support their young people, particularly those at risk. “This is evidenced by the dramatic rise in online donations this month versus same time last year,” he explains. “That support for centres and programs makes a difference, building safer and stronger communities at a time when frankly, sometimes youth get a bad rap.” June donations are up 63.8% already on last year’s total June sum, with nine days to go in the month.

“These donations are heartening,” says Paul, “and we are grateful to all Western Australians who are putting back into young people.”

The donations go toward supporting the many community programs around the state. The Carnarvon Youth Crime Intervention Officer Program has become a valuable tool to the WA Police Crime Reduction Strategies. With the assistance of PCYC, during the April school holidays they engaged around 50 to 80 kids a night, keeping streets safer and young people positively engaged. The program, assisted by community partners, has the potential to be an integral asset in the town if it is supported adequately.

Ongoing support is critical to any program’s success. “Starting and then stopping programs comes with its own danger,” warns Ferguson. “There is strong evidence globally that intervention programs work but if they are cut-off due to lack of funding, any financial savings to the community in terms of reductions in juvenile justice spending, can be eroded.”

The 2016 Young People in the Justice System review supports this. Savings to tax payers by redirecting young people is in the millions. The benefit to the community in involving them in positive programs is evident in the success stories PCYC staff and volunteers regularly experience.

“It’s about the kids,” says Ferguson. “Our staff are on the minimum wage and we have a raft of volunteers who believe in young people, in their potential. When they turn up for work, their focus is on changing lives.”

Kiara, an 18-year-old from Armadale who went through the Automotive Vocational Certificate 1 Course conducted at Kensington PCYC in April, has been asked to be a youth mentor volunteer at the centre because of her new ‘can-do’ attitude. Kiara now has her eyes on a career in the defence force as she works to improve her fitness skills with a PCYC trainer.

“Western Australians care about their youth,” says Ferguson. “But we have a long way to go and without community support, cannot grow to where we need to be, as young people face more and more challenging issues, from drugs to poverty to dealing with family situations many of us were fortunate to never encounter.

“Now, more than ever, the west needs to step up and take these young people by the hand. In turn, we are all rewarded with a brighter future, safer communities, and positive role models and mentors. The critical time for youth at risk is prior to that first offence. If community can intervene, the evidence is clear that instead of going on to become recidivist offenders, they step up to becoming a positive part of our communities.

“PCYC is that hand up when youth at risk need it most.”

To donate and support WA PCYC’s amazing programs and activities click here.

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