GERALDINE MORAN, LAKE MACQUARIE CITIZEN OF THE YEAR 2016

The role of non-government organisations in supporting our community is becoming more and more important as cuts are made to vital government services. Earlier this year, my constituent Geraldine Moran was honoured as Lake Macquarie's 2016 Citizen of the Year. Geraldine has now also been chosen as the Region Youth Services Youth Sector Worker of the Year.

Geraldine Moran is the chief executive officer, founder and driving force behind Centre For Hope. Five years ago Geraldine Moran saw a need to help young people aged between eight and 16 years who are not otherwise supported by government departments such as Juvenile Justice, Family Services, the Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care, and similar bodies. These are young people who are suffering adversity such as financial hardship, mental disorders, physical and learning disabilities, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies, and who have experienced mental, physical and sexual abuse, school pressure or bullying and who, because of their circumstances, are suffering a significant degree of helplessness.

We know that up to 30 per cent of hospitalisations for teenagers aged 14 to 19 years are for intentional self‑harm, assault and injury from accidents due to their predilection for risk-taking behaviour and substance abuse. Youth suicide accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all teenage deaths. In light of this, in 2011 Geraldine established the not-for-profit organisation Centre for Hope, which offers a program that aims to alleviate the psychological distresses and dislocation from the wider community that leads to self-harm and suicide in young teenagers. Centre for Hope assists both Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people who are considered to be in need of intervention to improve their educational and life outcomes. The aim of the centre is to empower young disadvantaged Australians to respect themselves, to connect to the wider community and to create an inspired life.

Centre for Hope has created several highly successful programs such as student mentoring, Wheels for Hope and the drop-in centre—both located at Lake Macquarie shopping centre—a Homework Centre at Windale library and the Supporting Families program. Centre for Hope has spread its wings to have a presence in Kurri Kurri, Raymond Terrace, Marrickville and Gilgandra. Centre for Hope is unique in that it provides young people who often have been identified as being at risk by their school with a coach and mentor—strong role models for these young people—who also support their families or carers. Mentors actively seek to link students to programs in the community such as surfing schools, sporting clubs, and boxing clubs, and they encourage students to participate in vocational activities.

Having a coach and a mentor dedicated to each young person's wellbeing, and listening without prejudice, means children and young people can express themselves, be heard and be connected with the right services and support. The coach and mentors focus on developing self-esteem and emotional intelligence, and on setting achievable goals. The coaching and mentoring programs consist of individual and group sessions in which young people are empowered to find direction in their lives. The group sessions involve work on emotions and how to deal with them, brain-gym exercises to improve learning, and self-esteem building exercises to help young people find purpose and direction in their life. It is wonderful, and a tribute to the program, that children who were previously mentored have become mentors.

Geraldine is committed to all the children and young people she works with. She is making a genuine difference in so many people's lives, and in their approach and attitude to life. Geraldine has dedicated, and continues to dedicate, her time and energy to assisting and empowering those around her and in doing so she has strengthened our whole community and transformed the lives of many. Geraldine is an inspiring woman and a worthy recipient of both Lake Macquarie's 2016 Citizen of the Year and Region Youth Services Youth Sector Worker of the Year. I wish Geraldine luck with her Telstra Business Women's Award nomination and I commend her for all the vital work she does for the people in the Charlestown electorate.