Miyay Birray Youth Service Street Beat program on hold after funding discontinued

Miyay Birray youth worker Glen Crump, Inspector Martin Burke, Miyay Birray CEO Darrel Smith and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall at last year's announcement of $78,000 for Street Beat, which will no longer continue.
Miyay Birray youth worker Glen Crump, Inspector Martin Burke, Miyay Birray CEO Darrel Smith and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall at last year's announcement of $78,000 for Street Beat, which will no longer continue.

For more than 10 years, Miyay Birray Youth Service has helped keep children off the streets at night through its Street Beat program, but now that service will have to be put on hold after funding was discontinued.

Miyay Birray received a one-off grant of $78,000 from the Department of Communities and Justice last year, with future negotiations to determine whether they would start receiving recurrent funding.

"It provided us to do our three nights a week and also extend some of our hours," Miyay Birray CEO Darrel Smith said.

"It also then built partnerships with the PCYC and police. They had their Saturday night program, so we were dropping kids home and collecting kids to and from that program as well.

"So it built a bit more capacity about how we could deliver, not just our service, but help officers in town."

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Miyay Birray has been chasing the Department of Communities and Justice since the end of November last year to find out whether they would get recurrent funding, but only found out two weeks ago that it would not continue.

They received funding from Family and Community Services (FACS) 18 months ago, but they aren't able to use that for Street Beat as that money is going towards their other programs.

"For us to take that up again, we have to stop doing something else," Mr Smith said.

"At the moment we see it (Street Beat) as a big need, but everything we do is a need in the community so that just seems to be the one thing that is most likely going to miss out."

Moree Police officer-in-charge Inspector Martin Burke was also disappointed to see the Street Beat program would not be continuing.

"We're big supporters of the Street Beat program," he said.

"We used to work very closely with the guys and girls as part of that. It just certainly helps disperse numbers of young people that might have been loitering the streets.

"It gave them an opportunity to be able to be moved on and to safer places and away from temptation of maybe participating in anti-social behaviour."

Inspector Burke said they would have to try and figure out some alternatives for transporting young people around town, particularly for the PCYC Saturday night program.

Transporting young people in the back of police cars is "an absolute last resort."

"If the service is there, it's a far better way and less confronting way for transporting young people around with the Street Beat program," Inspector Burke said.

With no more Street Beat for the foreseeable future, he is concerned it may hurt the relationship between the police and young people.

"I just found it (Street Beat) helped in terms of the work we're trying to do in the community and break down some of the barriers between police and young people," he said.

"That may erode some of that confidence that's been built up over time."

Mr Smith said it's going to have a significant impact around town, with around 1,300 to 1,400 pick ups occurring over the last six months.

"So average that out over three nights, it's a fair amount of kids," he said.

"And that's a lot in partnership with the PCYC as well. It's a lot of opportunities for kids to be out on the street at night time.

"Not every kid that's out on the street is bad, but it gives them that opportunity to come into contact with the justice system."

Not only will it impact the children, but it also impacts businesses, as Miyay Birray has worked closely with police and McDonald's, who regularly contact them to come pick up a group of children.

The funding also went to wages for staff who were responsible for Street Beat.

"I think we've got seven staff now that have lost positions...and those seven staff were not just on Street Beat but it was any other times," Mr Smith said.

"Our school holiday programs, if we ran any other activities at night time, then that always gave us a transport option for those programs."

Mr Smith is meeting with NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward next week to determine next steps and see if there's any ways of securing more funding in the future to bring the program back to Moree.