Perth Inner City Youth Services

03 December 2019

We are in a time of government indifference to our young people in this nation. We have rising unemployment and a social services system that stigmatises our young people, leaving them in deprivation.

Tonight, I want to give a shout out to an important organisation that is critically important to the welfare of the young people it serves, and that is Perth Inner City Youth Services. It offers non-judgemental and holistic help. It's been operating since 1982 with young people in the inner city between the ages of 16 and 25 who are at risk of homelessness, or who are homeless and need support. They work with young people regardless of race, religion, disability, family composition, sexuality or gender diversity, and they sometimes work with clients who are simply not accepted anywhere else.

I value their work. Youth unemployment under this government is out of control, and we know that the stigma associated with seeking income support is making our nation's young people feel like they've done something wrong. We don't want to set our young people up to fail. If we look at what PICYS is doing, their recently published Most Significant Change project tells the stories of 25 young people who accessed their services in the last couple of years. I had the opportunity to contribute to the report, but, most importantly, it's a collection of the experiences of young people who PICYS has worked with. These stories demonstrate the power of ensuring young people feel respected, heard and valued in their interactions with service providers. The report was done by the Youth Affairs Council and ECU in collaboration with PICYS, and I commend the report to members of the Senate and anyone in the community who's listening. Google it, you will be inspired. It is on the DSS website, and you'll find it if you google these stories of change.

What stands out is how individualised these stories are. There are people who are dealing with drug addiction, sex work, being young parents, family rejection and breakdowns in the family unit. All of these young people say the support and understanding they were offered through PICYS has helped them get through very tough times. They are helped through counselling or accommodation but, most importantly, these young people cite having someone helping them work through the responsibilities of life giving clear and non-judgemental guidance and advice when needed as its success. What's most important is having someone listen and care about you. That is what has given these young people the tools they need to look after themselves. I give a shout out to their base camp service, which is a drop-in service that allows young people to catch up with staff and other young people. It fosters a sense of community and safety, acceptance and belonging that so many of these young people have been deprived of. I'm impressed by the bravery of the young people who walk through PICYS stores in search of help and advice. The trusting relationships built between PICYS staff and the people they support is absolutely outstanding to say the least.

Eighteen-year-old Maizie wrote:

I feel I can't find the most significant change because PICYS has helped me with so much. Since being with PICYS I found a therapist I can connect with, a case manager who wants to see me strive and, because of this, I have now found my self-worth.

PICYS were awarded last month the Western Australian Mental Health Award in the category of diversity for its focus on assisting young LGBTIQA people that have experienced disconnection from their family and many mental health challenges and homelessness. PICYS, thank you for giving these young people the care and support they deserve and, most importantly, thank you to all these young people who shared their personal story about getting through life's challenges. You are awesome.