Funding cut may force closure of Ballajura Connect Program at Dungeon Youth Centre

Dungeon Youth Centre youth engagement worker Aisha Barnard with some of the Ballajura Connect Program participants.
Dungeon Youth Centre youth engagement worker Aisha Barnard with some of the Ballajura Connect Program participants.

A BALLAJURA youth program that helps hundreds of young people a year may be forced to close this month after funding was not renewed.

The Dungeon Youth Centre’s Ballajura Connect Program is a drop-in service run for local children aged eight to 12 years old two nights a week and has engaged about 350 young people and their families.

A two-year grant from the Department of Local Government and Communities runs out this month, with no plans from the State Government to renew funding.

The centre’s older drop-in service, for teenagers aged 12 to 18 years, will continue to run off grants from the City of Swan and Department of Child Protection and Family Services.

Centre youth engagement worker Aisha Barnard said it was seeking funds to provide one full-time and one casual youth worker to manage the connect program next year.

“As it stands at this point we’re not carrying it on next year because of the funding,” she said.

Ms Barnard said eight to 12 was an awkward age – not children and not yet teenagers – which did not have much support for mental health issues.

“The biggest success we’ve had is doing the transition program, so taking them through what we call the ‘circle of courage’, a model of best practice, from term to term,” she said.

“It talks about things like belonging and mastery and making sure they know where a safe space is, that change is totally natural.”

The free program helps mainly Ballajura-based children, provided case management and emergency relief if needed, other health information and helped Year 6s prepare for high school.

West Swan MLA Rita Saffioti has called on the State Government to continue to funding the successful program.

“The Dungeon’s program is an extremely successful model which should be taken up in other suburbs; we need to continue to support these types of programs for young people,” she said.

Community Services Minister Paul Miles said the one-off grant of $408,200 was provided through the Government’s social innovation grant program to fund a specific project that ended this year.

“The centre receives $170,617.52 in annual funding from the Department of Child Protection and Family Services,” he said.

“The Liberal National Government is currently undertaking a whole-of-government youth service mapping exercise to ensure that the need and provision of youth services are closely aligned across WA, allowing future funding of youth services to be considered in this context.”