Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Families and Children, Minister Mikakos. On 31 May I visited the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville, and I was very lucky to be shown around by the director of secure services, Ian Lanyon, and to meet his incredible staff. Yet again I was at a corrections facility being so impressed and moved by the compassion, care and dedication of the staff.
What was particularly inspiring was to see a fully functioning school, Parkville College, operating within the corrections centre. I went into one of the classes, a science class for the boys. They were doing what they called the ‘Scorpion Project’. They were costing how much it would cost to have scorpions in their classroom, how they would care for them, how they would feed them and what it would take to look after these insects. They had been successfully looking after some stick insects, and they were moving up to scorpions. I was very taken by this but was a tad disappointed when I heard that that probably was not going to happen and that having scorpions in a correctional facility may not be a great idea.
But this facility also had retired greyhounds and customs dogs and was moving to have some animals at the school’s regional facility. We all know the research around therapy animals and the benefits of caring for animals — it teaches empathy, maturity and responsibility. It was really lovely seeing this at a corrections facility. That almost seemed quite cute, but the reality is that most of the kids there do not know what care is. They have not been cared for, they have no-one who cares for them and they have no role models. They have no idea what it means to be loved and cared for.
Ian Lanyon mentioned that, as a police officer, he had seen the grandparents and the parents of these children through the system, so he was seeing a third generation, and they were parents themselves — they had children.
The action I am seeking is to break this cycle by having young parents attend childcare facilities with professional carers to provide guidance and education. I would like the minister to consider implementing a program where these parents can attend a childcare program with their children to learn parenting skills and break this vicious cycle.
Since June 2015, Parkville College has operated the Early Years Intervention Strategy (EYIS) for young people in youth justice who are parents.
The program is not only an intervention strategy, but also a primary prevention approach to strengthening and maintaining strong family connections through teaching young people how to be parents. It focuses on supporting positive parent-child relationships, assisting parents to differentiate between parent needs and parenting needs and improving their understanding of the early years of life.
It recognises the clear evidence that enhancing the wellbeing of young children prevents the development of future problems.
The strategy involves a partnership between Parkville College School, Early Childhood Management Services and the Department of Health & Human Services.
As part of their study at the College, young people who are parents can participate in Parenting Sessions that are aligned with the National Early Years Learning Framework (NEYLF).
The strategy will also:
– create an ‘early years’ curriculum that can be used throughout the school, with a focus on supporting the growth of nurturing and empathic parent-child relationships which in turn contributes to strong families
– promote the notion that children are unique and have the right to a healthy and happy childhood, free from abuse and neglect
– clearly differentiate between parents’ needs and parenting needs
– promote an enhanced understanding of the importance of the early years of life
– consider the use of child care centres as alternative learning environments for the young people and their own children.
An Early Years Reference Committee and a working party have also been established with key representatives from both the youth justice and early years sectors, along with adolescent and early childhood academics.