I recently attended the Master Builders Association of the ACT celebration of its 75th anniversary in Canberra. The evening honoured the significant contribution of the building and construction industry in building our great bush capital and our city. I would like to congratulate John Miller, the MBA and its members in achieving this milestone and to thank them for building Canberra and for being with Canberra during the good times and the tough times.
The event also honoured the work of PBS Homes in my electorate for its significant contribution to the Canberra and regional community. PBS Homes took out the inaugural Build the Community award for its great work with students at risk through the Kids Assist program and for its assistance in the construction of Home in Queanbeyan in the electorate of my colleague the member for Eden-Monaro.
The Kids Assist program has been operating for some years now and focuses on year 10 students who may not complete high school. The program aims to provide on- and off-the-job training for disengaged students, relevant pathways into employment and education, an opportunity to seek apprenticeships at the completion of the program and literacy and numeracy support. The program mentors students and links the subjects they study at school to the real world. Through the program students get the chance to understand what the workforce expects and how their subjects have meaning in that environment. The program also opens up the career horizons of students who may have fallen through the cracks.
Kids Assist involves six weeks of structured training in the classroom and on site. The training includes the formal OH&S induction card plus the appropriate theory that underpins the various trades. Students are invited to select the trade of their choice, and PBS encourages subcontractors to place them with a host employer who offers training for their trade. At the completion of the program students receive a certificate II in construction pathways.
So far 32 students have completed the program this year, and four of those students were offered apprenticeships with their host employer while the others continued on to year 11. This is just a great result. The teachers of the kids who stayed on at school have all reported improvements: a positive change in attitude and greater concentration. The students themselves have said that they feel more motivated and confident. As I said, it is a great result for everyone.
This program alone is worthy enough of recognition, but PBS’s commitment to the community does not end there. PBS Homes also received an award for the construction of Home in Queanbeyan. Home in Queanbeyan offers 24-hour support for people with chronic mental illness who might otherwise sleep rough. Home in Queanbeyan recognises the dignity of all people by striving to restore a sense of self-worth and belonging to those with chronic mental illness who need support to live a productive life. Home in Queanbeyan also raises awareness about the plight of the chronically mentally ill, and in so doing procures the involvement and support of local people, churches, community agencies, business and government.
When PBS Homes was asked to help Home in Queanbeyan, they gave a simple but direct ‘yes’. They agreed to build the facility at cost, covering only their overheads for the project. They also urged their suppliers and subcontractors to reduce the cost of their work, meaning further savings for this important community project. I am also informed that one of the principals at PBS Homes, Ian Carter, donned his tool belt and worked at the site, acting as foreman and spending many hours on the weekend to finish the job.
The work done by PBS Homes showcases the generosity and goodwill of the Canberra community to those in need. To Warren Ahrens, Ian and James Carter and the team at PBS Homes, congratulations on your award and thank you for your significant contribution to Canberra and the region. I would like to talk about two other issues today. On behalf of the people of Canberra I would like to express our deepest sympathy and sadness to the family and friends of the miners in New Zealand. This is a terrible tragedy, and I know that the thoughts, hearts and prayers of the people of Canberra are with them now and in the future. It is a particularly difficult time for them now, and I imagine that the next few months and years will also be difficult. Our thoughts are with them.
I would also like to acknowledge the tragedy in Cambodia. I know that a number of Canberrans have worked, visited or served there, and I would like to take this opportunity to express our condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this week’s terrible event at the water festival. This event was described by Prime Minister Hun Sen as the biggest tragedy since the Khmer Rouge.