Youth Insearch support program at risk due to federal government funding cut, Tamworth magistrate Mal MacPherson lobbying Social Services Minister Christian Porter

SILENCE BROKEN: Mal MacPherson is speaking out to save the organisation he loves. Photo: Peter Hardin 251116PHA003
SILENCE BROKEN: Mal MacPherson is speaking out to save the organisation he loves. Photo: Peter Hardin 251116PHA003

A TAMWORTH magistrate says the only youth support program he’s seen work consistently in his 25 years behind the bench is at risk, when the government cuts its funding next year.

Mal MacPherson said the transformation troubled young people go through in one intensive weekend of the Youth Insearch program at Lake Keepit was “extraordinary”.

“I’ve seen young people in a foetal position on Friday when the camp starts, who are running around on Sunday, completely different people,” Mr MacPherson told The Leader.

“So many come here with absolutely no self-esteem, angry, hating themselves and the whole world. One of the things the program does is to get young people to start loving themselves.”

The program will lose its federal government funding of $400,000 in June next year because of a reshuffle in the Department of Social Services’ funding streams.

I’ve seen young people in a foetal position on Friday night when the camp starts, who are running around on Sunday, completely different people.

Tamworth magistrate, Mal MacPherson

Mr MacPherson said it would be a travesty for anything to happen to such an effective program.

“As a magistrate, I keep seeing the same young people coming into court like a revolving door,” he said.

“Locking them up and throwing away the key doesn’t work for these young people. You need to deal with the underlying problems, which is exactly what Youth Insearch does.”

The relatively small amount the government spends on the program saves it a great deal in the long run, by keeping young people out of jail – on average it costs nearly $500,000 to keep a juvenile in detention for a year, or $1400 a day.

Mr MacPherson is calling on Social Services Minister Christian Porter to find a way to keep the program afloat.

The magistrate has also discussed the matter with the office of New England MP Barnaby Joyce, who The Leader understands is supportive of the program.

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