In 1937 the then Police Commissioner, William Mackay, with the help of Rotary, established Police Citizens Youth Clubs in NSW.Today, 78 years on, and 52 years since a generous donation by the Wagga Leagues Club established a PCYC facility in Wagga, a bold, new $14-15 million PCYC regional sport and youth centre is being planned at South Wagga Bowling Club site.
The time is right. When Mackay and Rotary began the partnership with the community “to provide young people with a safe and positive alternative to the streets; the reduction of crime by and against young people and the promotion of citizenship within the communities across the state”, they probably never envisaged today’s need for youth development and well-coordinated youth services born of modern-day social issues arising from drugs, mental health, social isolation and financial vulnerability.
The multi-million dollar plan, spearheaded by the Wagga PCYC committee with financial consultants RSM Bird Cameron, aims to provide –with the help of local, state and federal government, plus non-government and community sector shareholders -a range of sports and recreational activities, co-located youth services (now spread about the city), a drop-in youth hub and cafe, amongst other facilities including basketball courts, gymnastic facilities, martial arts and boxing rooms, child care and two 200-person capacity conference rooms.
Some of these are already provided at the ageing and inadequateGurwood streetclub rooms along with after school and vacation care, youth programs, safe driver courses and the traffic offenders intervention program, all of which attract a weekly minimum of 700 attendees from the region, not just Wagga.
The simple fact is more needs to be done within Wagga and neighbouring towns, Tumut, Tumbarumba, Narrandera, Lockhart, Coolamon and Junee, according to the detailed projection for the proposed Wagga complex which is now before the city council and other potential stakeholders.
The column understands negotiations to hand over the lease of the bowling club site to PCYC are well advanced and talks with WCC about being a major financial stakeholder to the tune of $4 million have been raised. Already PCYC holds $1 million from the State Government which Daryl Maguire, as a strong supporter, negotiated.
There is reason for us all to be concerned about our youth. Rates of juvenile offences in Wagga in many critical areas are much higher than the state average.
As the project report said: “Crime is a serious concern in Wagga and children are being placed at risk directly and indirectly. The scale of the problem is enormous. Research by NSW Police indicates that per head of staff , the Wagga Police LAC is busier than any other LACs including Campbelltown and Macquarie Fields”.
If Wagga’s councillors really want to leave a positive, lasting impact in their remaining 11 months before the next general election, they might put aside their individual differences and preferences and financially support the project.
Rotary, which also brought our state the Northcott Society, eight years before it helped raise PCYCs, has a further part to play. There are at least 13 Rotary clubs within the regional scope of the PCYC plan.
As the plan suggests: “No one organisation can prevent and address crime -it requires a co-ordinated, whole-of-community response; the benefits are in deterring youth from committing crime and supporting those who are negatively affected by it”.
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