Behind Closed Doors

I recently found this  Editorial in a folder (aptly named: ‘wefjwefisw’ – organization isn’t my strong point) which was submitted in an English assignment at college. The editorial itself touches on the issue of homeless youth in Tasmania (my home state) and the Government’s attempts (or lack of) to help solve the problem. The Editorial mentions how in 2007 the state Government (lead by Paul Lennon) appropriated vast amounts of money to the AFL in an attempt to secure matches played in the state. In 2011, the Government sponsored another deal with the AFL, operating through TT-Line, a Government owned business.

Given the eerie sense of deja vu, I decided to republish it.

Here it is, original format:

Behind Closed Doors

The truth about the homeless youth in Tasmania.

     The issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is one which, sadly, goes by widely unknown to the public. Despite the best efforts of local St. Vincent de Paul committees such as Louie’s Van and Bethlehem House (programs designed to feed and assist the homeless, the latter providing shelter), streets and parks of Hobart are still called home some 950 youth (Source: Mission Australia), some as young as ten years old, who have been left to fend for themselves. The youngest recorded homeless youth in 2007 was just eight.

This is a poor reflection on the Government’s ability to assist the Tasmanian youth. Where do the tax dollars the Government so willingly collects go? Into the hands of those who need it most? Hardly. In 2007, under the command of ex-Premier Paul Lennon, the Tasmanian Government injected $15,000,000 into the Hawthorn Hawks AFL team over a four year contract, based on the condition that the Hawks would play a minimum of two games in the state, along with adopt a new title: “The Tassie Hawks”.

Where did this funding come from? The pockets of the Tasmanian tax payers. This $15,000,000 could have just as easily provided additional shelter and rehabilitation facilities for homeless youth, reducing the amount of youth living on the streets both short-term and long term.

This isn’t the only example of the State Government’s mishandling of funds. When Rosanne Haggerty visited Tasmania to advise our State Government on how to “halve the number of homeless people sleeping rough”, the tax-payers spent $27,000 – roughly $9,000 a day. This $27,000 was spent on luxury accommodation, high-class meals, and transport for Haggerty, including a scenic helicopter flight across the East Coast. The irony in this scenario is that Haggerty visited Tasmania to help tackle poverty, yet of the $27,000 spent, not a single cent went to feeding or clothing the homeless youths.

If the Government is spending money so impulsively, what are they doing about homeless youth on a local scale? To their credit, The Tasmanian Government has allocated $60,000,000 of the state budget towards tackling homelessness across the 2008-2009 period (Source: 2008/2009 State Budget). On a national scale, the Rudd Government has allocated $2.2 Billion dollars. (Source: 2008 National Budget)

Whilst it’s easy to simply throw money at an issue, how is the money being handled? Of the homeless shelters listed under ShelterTas, all of them are non-Government Organizations, and only four of them are designated towards housing homeless youth.

Sadly, homeless youth is not restricted to Tasmania alone. A journal article, The School Prefect, written by renowned writer and journalist, Chris Masters, told the story of a homeless girl, no older than 16, being forced into prostitution to fund her drug addiction. The despair and suffering which associates with the homeless youth such as the example discussed by Masters is one which still sadly exists today. But why does it exist? Why in Australia, one of the richest countries of the world, is homeless youth such a large issue? Because its people are not being proactive about it!

 Spending huge amounts on shelters and rehabilitation services, whilst helping to solve the problem, is not enough! Raising awareness about the issue of homeless youth is, whilst difficult, the most effective of all. People are more inclined to make a difference when presented with the cold, sometimes harsh facts of reality.

     Unfortunately, the truth about homeless youth in Tasmania is one which is left behind closed-doors, particularly in the media. It is interesting to note that, for the past seven consecutive days (as of September 1st 2008), the local newspaper, The Mercury, has elected to write articles about the goings-on of Tasmanian citizen-turned-Princess Mary Donaldson, as opposed to any form of hinting at how serious the issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is becoming.

The media is a powerful tool in terms of raising awareness regarding any issue or topic of interest. I propose that the Tasmanian media become more proactive in assisting tackling the issue of homeless youth through the use of advertising campaigns, news articles, etc. Surely, if an article regarding Mary Donaldson is pushed aside in favour of publishing a report regarding homeless youth, the public’s awareness to the issue will increase, allowing Tasmanian citizens to become more active in helping to solve the problem. This problem is one which cannot be solved solely by the Government! Based upon the facts presented earlier, it is apparent that the Government is incompetent in handling major issues in our society. It is time we stopped putting the issues of Tasmanian society in the hands of our Government and the establishment!  It is time the people took the matters into their own hands. As citizens, you have the power to donate both money and basic necessities such as food and clothing, and to spread awareness.

     The issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is not one which can be solved overnight, but if the public are made aware of the true facts surrounding it, in combination with the further establishment of more rehabilitation services, there can be a brighter future for the homeless youth living in Tasmania.



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