Glen Innes youth hub debate between Steve Toms and Carol Sparks | Opinion

Both the mayor, Steve Toms, and deputy mayor, Carol Sparks, have opposite views about creating a youth hub in the former Severn Shire Council building. So the Glen Innes Examiner asked both of them to explain why they’re for it and against it.

DIFFERENT VIEWS: Mayor Steve Toms and deputy mayor Carol Sparks disagree over whether council should create a youth hub.

DIFFERENT VIEWS: Mayor Steve Toms and deputy mayor Carol Sparks disagree over whether council should create a youth hub.

Carol Sparks, deputy mayor

I and Cr Dianne Newman have campaigned for the “youth hub” because we feel it is very important to do something positive for the youth of our town.

That’s why we pushed for it to become part of council policy.

Since that decision, I am very happy with the huge amount of positive feedback I’ve had from many services such as Joblink, the police, mental health workers, the Land Council, the High School, including teachers there, the Community Centre in Glen Innes, from local Aboriginal artists and many others who want to be part of the youth, art and culture centre.  

Focusing on the cultural influences in our community and enabling our children to express their culture through art, dance, music and exercise, a room for computer access and a quiet area for homework and reading and board games is envisaged.

Cooking in partnership with the Community Centre, and being able to enjoy each others’ company in a place that is their own space in our town, is an opportunity that cannot be let go.

Carol Sparks and Dianne Newman

Carol Sparks and Dianne Newman

Linking our youth to programs that will enable them to get a job to gain the skills they need is also going to be part of the youth centre.  

This will be a holistic centre, covering all aspects of the growth of young people, from their health (both mental and physical), their confidence and their dreams and aspirations for their future.

To fund this important part of our community’s future, we intend to apply for a regional arts and culture grant. This would enable us to do important work like provide new guttering. It will also help us to paint the walls, furnish the rooms and upgrade the toilets, providing disabled access, and to upgrade the kitchenette. We also want to have an area for exercise and for boxing.

Volunteers from all across our community have already offered to help out. Correctional Centre volunteers will be asked to paint the inside of the building  as in the past it has had leaks because of the poor guttering which caused the paint to flake off.

We know it will need some work. But we are positive and determined.

Let's hope that we can persuade the detractors to get on board and give us a hand. Let’s all get together and support our community and our youth. It is a worthwhile cause. Be positive. Let’s do it.

Glen Innes Severn Council mayor Steve Toms

Glen Innes Severn Council mayor Steve Toms

Steve Toms, mayor

Investing in our young people is investing in the future. Council provides many facilities that support our youth, including sporting grounds, library and swimming pools, all at considerable cost.

The council resolution of June 28 to ‘support the establishment of a youth centre’ is a concept put forward by some councillors without any clear vision or direction as to how and what it should achieve, and at what cost.

The resolution sounds simple, but staff are now expected to take some action ‘to support’ a youth centre without clear direction or funding. The cost could be considerable.

The concept does not consider the range of services and facilities that are already available within our community and risks competing with other existing service providers and facilities.

Pathfinders for example, have purchased the former Royal Hotel to provide a range of services including youth and homeless.

Pathfinders are keen to recommence an evening “open door” program for two nights per week should they be able to find the funds.

Council committed an extra $52,000 to youth services this financial year following a March 2018 resolution of council, but most will be consumed by wages, not youth programs.

The former Severn Shire Council building.

The former Severn Shire Council building.

How did we get to this point?

In my experience, we get the best outcomes when all councillors, staff and stakeholders work collaboratively together to develop an optimal strategic direction that is affordable.

This did occur in the development of the Community Strategic Plan. The plan provides a clear focus on roads (with the biggest rural roads budget ever); economic development and population growth. Boosting population is critical to retention and growth of services.

The Delivery Plan supports the establishment of a Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) in Glen Innes. The establishment of a PCYC, or more likely outreach services of a PCYC, are not dependent on the former Severn Shire Council building. In fact, several existing buildings have been suggested that may be more suitable.

The concept of a youth centre commenced with a public campaign by two councillors focusing on a building and assuming this will be the best solution. The concept is not provided for in our Community Strategic Plan or the 2018/19 approved budget.

The May council meeting blocked a recommendation to publicly seek expressions of interest for the lease or sale of the former Severn Shire Building. The recommendation aimed at transparency and openness in the best use of council assets.

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