By Sean Malloy
SYDNEY — "What we represent is the community, and hopefully the community will also represent us", said Brad Roberts, coordinator of Glebe Youth Centre, in the midst of a campaign to save the centre from closure.
Funding for the popular and effective centre will run out in mid-November. It has been denied further funding by the NSW minister for community services and Aboriginal affairs, Jim Longley.
Glebe Youth Centre provides services for young people from the inner suburb, particularly from the local housing estate. The Glebe Estate was transferred from the federal government to the NSW Housing Commission in February 1985. The youth centre was established as part of a plan to meet the needs of the estate and the Glebe community.
"There is quite a high proportion of low income families living in the area on the Glebe Estate", Roberts told Green Left Weekly. "When the government developed the estate from what was a church-owned property, it gave a commitment to the people, and the future population of the area, that they would be serviced.
"A lot of the young people make use of this facility", he said. "They use it for general socialising, they use it as a creative focus. Some programs have an educational base, some have a recreational base. A couple of programs have a crime prevention focus.
"Many young people we deal with no-one else really wants to deal with. We fill a vital gap in providing a service. We're not an educational institute, we are not associated with the police system or any other organisations of that nature. Basically we try to empower young people. We advise them, we support them and, most importantly, I'd say, we listen to them."
Between 1986 and 1991 the population of 5-19 year-olds in the Glebe area increased by 96.5%. Current attendance at the centre averages 122 young people per week. Yearly attendance figures have grown dramatically over the last three years. Between May 1991 and April 1992, 2918 young people used the centre; between May 1992 and April 1993 that figure jumped to 6376.
Some of the many programs and activities provided by the centre include a homework program for Aboriginal children, young women's self-defence, a young lesbian group, school holiday programs and a helping early leavers program.
On the campaign to save the centre, Roberts explains that broad of support has emerged for the centre's continuation, ranging from celebrities such as Andrew Denton, Jimmy Barnes, Reg Mombassa, Paul Vautin and Angry Anderson to community and progressive organisations such as the Wilderness Society and Reverse Garbage, and even government bodies such as the Leichhardt Municipal Council and the NSW Police Service in Glebe.
"The young people themselves are also involved in the campaign through petitions and getting things out on the street", added Roberts.