Jenelle Dillon and her 14-year-old son Anthony are two reasons why the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme has been a stunning success.
"Anthony's life has changed and his behaviour is nothing like it was," Jenelle says. "He's had a mentor for the last six months now is better with attending school and even talks about getting a job."
Jenelle Dillon knew very early on that something wasn't right with her son, and eventually had him diagnosed with autism, a disorder of neural development, often displayed by poor social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour. Extreme outcomes can be violent and aggressive behaviour, something Jenelle has had to cope with as a single mum for years.
"The Youth Mentoring programme has been a saviour," she says.
The unique scheme has been matching hundreds of young people for nearly ten years, and has lost funding support from the Federal Government. This follows the termination of an early intervention programme under the Child and Communities department just two years ago.
"I don't know what to do next," Jenelle says. "This programme has changed my son's life and the government are taking this away. I'm so angry."
Leichhardt MP Jim Turnour says that the funding will be used for other programmes to "keep children at school." However when I talked with him at 3pm yesterday in his Canberra parliamentary office, he was dismissive.
"I'm supportive of the programme, but why don't you put your questions in writing," Jim Turnour told me. "Talk with my media department, she will help you. I'm here by myself and I've got to get a plane to Kowanyama at 7am."
Turnour has said that the Labor government is "reprioritising funding for education and young people at risk."
It was a shame to get fobbed off as I was wanting just a couple of minutes to explain the crucial crossroads the youth mentoring programme is facing. The scheme has helped young people from 12 to 21 years achieve life goals who are often disadvantaged due to family situation or social skills.
Damian Zammit, a youth mentor who also volunteers for the SES, sees the value that young people and their families get from the mentoring relationships, and is driving the organisation ahead to Incorporation, so it is community "owned and managed."
"This is not a recruitment of mentors and volunteers. This determines the continuation of the programme post December," Damian Zammit says. "What we need is a network of community resources to draw upon. Without these resources the programme will cease entirely."
Anyone is encouraged to attend Tuesday night's meeting (27th October) which will be held at the Flexible Learning Centre, Clark Street, Manunda at 6pm.
"What we need now is time and support, says John Shay, co-ordinator of the scheme. "It is highly important that we have a good attendance at Tuesday's special meeting, I know it is short notice, but time is of the essence. If anyone would like to be involved in the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme in the future, it is imperative that this meeting be a priority."
Resolutions will be proposed as a special resolution for the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme to incorporate under the provisions of the Associations Incorporation Act. Interim officers will also be called for.
You can contact the CYMS office on 4041 5844 or 0438 413 949.
Here's Janelle with her son Anthony, along with Tracey Dickinson from FNQ Volunteers discussing why the programme is such an invaluable resource for our community.