Katherine YMCA faces ‘catastrophic’ closure

FUNDING FURY: YMCA Katherine staff Chantal Ober, Jim Vivian and Tammy Frean are furious the organisation has lost $1.1 million cut in federal funding.Thedoors of YMCA Katherine could be shut by July after more than $1.1 million in critical funding was slashed from the organisation’s bottom line earlier this month.

As part of the federal government’s $860m Indigenous Advancement Strategy program, YMCA Katherine will only receive $250,000 over the next three years, an astounding cut of more than 80 per cent from its current funding level of $470,000 per year.

YMCA Katherine chief executive officer Jim Vivian told the Katherine Times that the announcement was a “slap in the face” for the organisation, which had been asked to submit a five-year, $8-million program expansion plan in 2014.

“It’s a feeling of total disbelief, because we were asked to submit a three- to five-year program on how we’d like to expand youth services, so we did,” he said.

“If we only get [the $250,000] we’re almost forced to shut down our youth and community section.

“It effectively shuts down the whole show.

“If we’ve got all this expertise and they want us to look at expanding, why are they cutting our funding?”

The announcement comes just four months after YMCA Katherine staff member Chantal Ober was named the 2014 Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year for her efforts in working with local youth and creating programs aimed at improving theirresilience and self-esteem.

“For Chantal to win her award and now not know if her job is safe, it’s a real slap in the face,” Mr Vivian said.

He has written to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion to plead for the funding allocation to be reviewed, adding that he wanted the senator to visit Katherine to see for himself the specialist youth services the organisation provided.

“It will be catastrophic if we have to close,” Mr Viviansaid.

Team leader Tammy Frean said she was worried the closure of YMCA Katherine could cost at-risk youth their lives.

“We’re the only ones who do what we do in Katherine,” she explained.

“There’s not another organisation that we can just hand our caseload to.

“For some of these kids, us being open is a matter of life-and-death.”

While the IAS has been used as a political football in Canberra, Mr Vivian said Senator Scullion needed to understand what the human impact of the funding cuts would mean for the Katherine community.

“There’s no way we can survive with the funding they’ve offered,” he said.

“This is about the whole community, not just the YMCA.”

YMCA Katherine fast facts

IN ADDITION to its gymnasium, YMCA Katherine offers a diverse range of community services, including:

1. An adolescent sexual healthprogram in Katherine and Barunga.

2. Weekly youth nights for boys and girls that target specific issues identified by attendees.

3. On-call, after-hours support for youth, including suicide intervention

4. Supporting local youth withcorrectional orders and bail conditions.

5. An interactive education program on sexual assault and domestic violence.

6. Support youth as a responsible adult during police interviews.