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By Kaymolly Morrelle

25 May, 2011

Trade skills educator and manager Russell Ardley found little in the recent State and Federal Budgets to support his training programs for disadvantaged youth on the Mornington Peninsula. He is struggling to expand the vocational and trade skills programs he runs at Mornington Peninsula Youth Enterprises without long term funding.

Russell Ardley instructs Horticulture student Matt in his first lesson on the front loader. Photo: Kaymolly Morrelle

“Funding is just getting harder and harder to get. The government’s giving less and less and what I’ve heard of the new budget, that’s not looking very promising for us,” Mr Ardley said.

Socio-economic disadvantage is a big issue in both Frankston and Mornington, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Mr Ardley sees many young people on the Mornington Peninsula facing similar disadvantage, disconnection and family dysfunction as young people in neighbouring Frankston. “People think Mornington is wealthy, but there are families here really doing it tough,” he said.

In the mid-1990s, Mr Ardley’s son inspired him to set up and manage the training centre with initial help from Mornington Peninsula Shire. “My son lost his way in life and there was nothing around for young people to do,” he said.

A friend offered to teach the boy some trade skills and later suggested Mr Ardley might do the same with other youngsters who weren’t coping. “We decided to have a go at something and so it started in my shed for the first three years and then we moved here,” he said.

Horticulture Certificate I and II programs are popular at MPYE. The native plants they propagate are available to the public and community landcare groups. The centre delivered over 6,500 mangrove plants to Bass Council this month, to reconstruct ecosystems along the Bass coast. “This is one way participants can give back to the community,” Mr Ardley said.

Shakiralee supervises the Native Plant Nursery and mangrove propagation at MPYE. Photo: Kaymolly Morrelle

The centre runs without ongoing funding from any tier of government. It relies on the resourcefulness and goodwill of its staff, local volunteers and community groups. Mr Ardley speaks to philanthropic groups after hours and on weekends. He tells them of the centre’s work and appreciates every grant or donation to buy more equipment and keep the programs running on the Mornington Peninsula.

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This work by Kaymolly S. Morrelle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.