Burt Community Programs

House of Representatives, Adjournment Speech - 14 August 2018

Watch Matt's speech here

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (19:50): Before I get to my remarks, I just want to endorse the remarks made by the member for Watson earlier in the adjournment debate this evening.

This evening, I wish to bring to our nation's attention some of the innovative and really very important community programs operating in the City of Armadale in the electorate of Burt. These are programs that are producing positive, life-changing results that, if expanded to create a critical mass of change, would produce community-wide benefits so that they don't change just the story of the participants and their families but that of the whole community. By pursuing such a critical-mass approach, these programs would not just be valuable proofs of concept and demonstrations of individual programs, which they are, but show the real community-wide benefit that can flow and the savings to government that can be achieved by truly joined-up interventions and community supports.

The first of these programs is the Child and Parent Centre at Challis Community Primary School. Before this program kicked off, children were starting school lacking the most basic language and social skills, and these developmental vulnerabilities were significantly higher than the national average. The Challis model brings together high-quality early childhood education prior to preschool meshed with parenthood early intervention programs to complement early learning and address barriers to child development, as well as family supports for a consistent scaffolding to optimise children's progress. This system starts from birth and is delivered through a single point of contact at the school, ensuring that children start school ready to learn and are supported through their early schooling. The results have been truly amazing, with students who have been part of the program outperforming their peers by up to 95 per cent. But we need critical mass, not just one school in the community. We need a critical mass of schools delivering such an approach, lifting the average performance and overall outcomes for the entire community.

There is also the Armadale Youth Intervention Partnership, demonstrating how a targeted, collaborative and place based approach with purposely resourced backbone leadership can support better outcomes for young people with complex needs. It's an early intervention model aimed at preventing children from committing crimes and then becoming the responsibility of the justice system, to instead re-engage with school and set on a pathway to employment and becoming productive members of our community. This work involves a trauma-informed response bringing together educators, youth workers, neuropsychologists and others in an intensive intervention that is consent based. This program works with children aged eight to 12 in our community who have high rates of truancy, are known to the Department for Child Protection and are known to police as being at risk of criminal behaviour. While the 63 family members of these seven child participants are involved, it is also the case that these children represent only half of those meeting the at-risk criteria within the City of Armadale, let alone across the entire electorate of Burt. This program has produced very positive results in a short time.

Also, for every day that a young person is kept out of juvenile detention, we actually save $815. Given that approximately one in four juvenile detainees come from my electorate, the government investment in this program pays huge dividends—spending less on police, courts and corrective services whilst gaining a lot more from the people we have helped. We need to provide more opportunities for at-risk kids not just in the electorate of Burt but across the country before they end up in the juvenile justice system. At the very least, let's try to meet the demand of those across the City of Armadale.

Then we have the WA Labor government's proposed three-year pilot, at Armadale Senior High School, of a full-service program which will kick off next year. Schools in lower socioeconomic areas like Armadale are increasingly required to cope with non-academic issues such as health and safety. These often spill into the classroom and hamper students' ability to learn. This program will go beyond the traditional classroom and will help schools support modern families, and the complex issues they face, with a youth and community service hub of health initiatives, life skills, and enhanced education options for students and their families. Again, the opportunity exists for a full community benefit by bringing such an approach to all of our local senior high schools, not just one.

The impact these current and future programs will have on the lives of our children will be hugely significant. They are quite literally changing the story of their lives, but the opportunity is so much more. The positive impact these programs make is muted because they are not widespread enough in the community. They create localised change, but we need that change to have a holistic impact and not be held back by the broader community they exist in. Changing the story of the lives of children and their families also has to be about changing the stories of others in our community and changing the stories that their community has about itself and what it can achieve. We know these and other pilot programs work. We now need to support them to grow and flourish, just as the children within them have already done. (Time expired)