Friday 23 October 2009

Cairns youth mentoring at crossroads

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.


Yorkey the Knobber said...

These "mentoring" programs always sound good on paper, but the bad experiences the community has with them always makes me wary. You've got the guy at Petford who had his place closed down; he was quite the freak it's been revealed. Then the migrant building a house for "homeless teens" - something weird about that deal too, I wouldn't give them a dime. Even things run by church groups have had their share of troubles.

Mentor's wife said said...

To Yorkey the Knobber,

Lets put a more positive spin on this story than yours, shall we.......???

my partner is a first time mentor with this program, and he has a 10 yr old boy as his mentee.

My partner a busy man, who works 10 hr days sitting at a desk in a very, very stressful job and besides golf and me, has little else in the way of interests in his life. It was not our luck to have been able to have children of our own.

The match with this boy is perfect.

They go fishing on weekends and my partner has been taught how to fish by a 10 yr old. He has now even bought himself a fishing rod! They go 10 pin bowling, putt putt golfing, he watches his mentee play sport and they generally hang out together over a burger or a walk on the esplanade and do "boy things" for a few hours on the weekends.

My partner is a much happier man in himself at the moment and so as far as I can see the benefits go bothways if the match is good. My partner really looks forward to weekends and sharing time with his mentee and often reminesces during the week about the fun times that he and this boy have together.

So now I am the one missing out, but you know what, I do not mind so much as I know those two are having fun together, and the benefit to my husband has been immeasurable really. I would like to think that there will be a life long relationship between our two families, and that can only be summarised as a good thing.

And lets not forget that the most important thing is the benefits to the child. ie. that this boy is helped over a difficult time in his life by someone who is a mature, caring and sharing male who would be a fantastic role model for anyone young.

Most men do not have deviant sexual preferences involving children and if all the checks have been done properly and the match good between mentor and mentee, then these stories will be positive and have happy endings for all concerned.

There are many good men in this program who have been doing this alot longer than my partner, and knowing that every year, a number of these troubled boys have a male confidant and mentor who has been able to guide and share their lives should not be dismissed outright out of fear. Their good work should be continued and many boys will miss out on this wonderful enriching experience if it does not!!!

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

Ah, Jim "Mumbles" Turnour, fearless defender of the needs of the Far North, NOT. The whole point of the Youth Mentoring Scheme is not 'to keep kids in school', it's to give them the attention of a caring adult, not related to their family, who can do different stuff, show them different sides of life, allow them to discuss their concerns from an objective viewpoint, & so on.

Next, Mumbles will be telling us that KevRudd is giving us 36.8 or 96.8 million (or whatever megalithic figure they come up with) to 'keep kids at school'.

The funding for the YMP is much less, as the mentors give their time free, with only the coordinators rightly drawing a wage.

But no, Mumbles refuses to support or fight to retain a cost-effective and programme-effective scheme. Our taxes at work again folk. . . . paying Mumbles is one way your yearly contribution to the coffers of Australia is distributed.

And for Yorkey the Knobber above, jeez, what cynicism. The Youth Mentoring Scheme is totally above board, & mentors are extensively vetted before being admitted to the programme. The child's parents meet the mentor, & are able to veto the relationship if they so wish. Nothing hidden, nothing nasty.

And I dare say by mentioning "the migrant" you mean Harold Falge, of Youth Level Street Care? Well, Knobber, Harold has lived & contributed to Australia for many a moon, & is there, night after night, at Martin Munro Park with the van & volunteers, feeding & talking to homeless kids. Go & talk to him & make up your own mind, rather than casting aspersions.

The Petford case I'm not sure on, as I had just moved up here to the Far North about that time, so I won't comment.

But hey Knobber, you obviously haven't been homeless, or worked with or around homeless people. It's hard enough to be a homeless adult, let alone a homeless kid. Even a cuppa, a meal, or just someone to chat to who doesn't treat you like rubbish is a huge comfort in a difficult life.

But then again, Knobber, you may have had a nasty run-in with a scout-master, priest or the like, & been suppressing it for a long time. Time for therapy?

Sue E said...

Well said Mentor’s wife. It’s a valuable program and so beneficial to many troubled kids including girls not just boys and of course the mentors as you have pointed out. Many kids struggle at school or have family problems and this often manifests itself behavioural wise both at home and school. As I see it, having a mentor enables them to develop and build a relationship and trust with someone who is unconnected to their family or school situation. A fresh perspective so to speak without any preconceived notions and that’s important to many troubled kids. Mentoring has enabled many kids to turn their life around not just at home but at school. The government needs to put it’s money where its mouth is.

colinwhodares said...

lillian you have hit the nail on the head , jim mumbles turnitup has no idea about anything , other than his trotted out "the rudd government blah blah blah, watch now after the 2 hour delay we experienced on the southern access side of town fiasco yesterday , mumbles will say I have $150 million set aside to fix it , just in time for the upcoming election , in fact he has done sweet stuff all in his time in office , I think it is time to evict this mumbling bumbling dolt.