The point of no U-Turn

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 14 April 2013 | 19.55

MISSION Australia is pursuing several avenues in its quest to keep the U-Turn youth justice diversion program alive.

The program, with an annual budget of $860,000, has been a victim of Tasmania Police budget cuts.

The next round of the 10-week course will be the last, unless alternative funds are found.

U-Turn is a diversionary program for young people who have been involved in, or are at risk of becoming involved in, motor vehicle theft. Participants learn such skills as mechanical works, spray-painting and panel beating.

Cars restored by U-Turn participants are donated to victims of crime.

For the past 10 years it has been provided by Mission Australia, under contract to Tasmania Police, and has put many troubled young people on the path to a better life.

Since the funding cut was announced, Mission Australia state director Noel Mundy has been meeting with State Government ministers in an effort to source funds.

However, he has been unable to obtain any funding commitments.

"The feedback is they don't want it to close, but nobody is writing out a cheque," he said.

"What I've been saying is, it's a whole-of-government issue. There's just nowhere else for these young people.

"We're starting to look at alternatives because we have national corporate partners."

Mr Mundy said cutting the funding for U-Turn was false economy because the program diverted young people from crime, reducing significant costs to the community

"It's quite an expensive program, but it's much better than Ashley (Youth Detention Centre). It's $130 per day to do U-Turn, and $900 (per day) to be at Ashley," he said.

"I wouldn't be fighting for this funding if it wasn't a great program."

U-Turn runs four courses a year with about 12 participants in each course, catering for about 80 students per year.

There have been 267 young graduates from the course over 10 years and 48 vehicles have been donated to victims of crime.

Graduates also receive ongoing support from U-Turn after their course has finished, to help keep them on track.

"Just attending doesn't get you to graduation. We want these young people to go back into education, work experience or paid employment," Mr Mundy said.

Aaron trades up to a life

A ONCE troubled young Hobart man who is following his dreams says the end of U-Turn would close the last door of hope for many young Tasmanians.

Before he joined U-Turn, Aaron (not his real name) was on what he describes as a path to self destruction.

He had a string of criminal offences on his record, including breaking and entering, car theft and reckless driving.

"I was quite an angry kid, but one half was about image, fitting in with the group and not wanting to look soft," he said.

"No one had the time for a scummy little bogan who steals stuff and smokes drugs.

"U-Turn was different because they didn't look at me like that, they just saw a kid who was having a hard time."

Aaron, 24, said not only did U-Turn provide him with practical skills, but with confidence and a desire to get a job.

Aaron graduated from U-Turn in 2006 and landed an apprenticeship soon after.

Now a qualified tradesman, Aaron spends lunch breaks and days off back at U-Turn mentoring participants.

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