Australia-New Zealand Police and Community Youth Clubs & Blue Light Youth Policing Conference, Sydney

Woolloomooloo is now a pretty flash place.

It wasn’t 75 years ago.

It was poor and dangerous.

75 years ago if you walked seven or eight blocks from here you would find yourself in the dingy world that was captured by Channel Nine’s Underbelly last year.

Not a safe place.

It was there, in the heart of Sydney’s underbelly, that a Police Commissioner teamed up with the Rotary Club and turned an old police station into a club for disadvantaged local boys.

It was Australia’s first PCYC – back then it was the Police-Rotary Boys Club.

You know what happened next.

In 75 years 150 clubs have been established.

One of them is where I grew up – Cabramatta.

It was effectively a refuge for young people. At the time Cabramatta was the heroin capital of Australia – but it was safe inside the PCYC.

Others like St George PCYC have been the base camp for world champions.

I remember seeing Kostya Tszyu train there.

He is just one.

Jimmy Carruthers, Murray Rose, and Jeff Fenech are all products of PCYC.

For many young people the PCYC is also the first place they get to talk to a Police Officer – without being arrested.

They get to know Police Officers as people and develop a respect for the work they do, that might not have existed before.

This is the magic ingredient that makes PCYC’s so important.

If you take the Police Officer out of the PCYC – it’s just another club.

I remember back in the 1990s there were suggestions we take Police officers out of the clubs.

I was working for the State Government at the time – and we rejected that.

It would have been a disaster.

It’s the involvement of police in PCYC’s that makes them so special.

The bonds that are forged between police and young people have an incredible impact.

It’s something no other club can replicate.

PCYC’s are funded through state and local governments, often with generous contributions from business and individuals.

The Federal Government also helps out.

In March I announced about $2 million in funding for PCYC’s across Australia.

This money wasn’t collected from taxpayers, it was taken from criminals.

In Lismore we allocated $75,000 for a Midnight Sports program where at risk young people are picked up on a Friday night, given a feed, participate in sports and mentoring programs and are then dropped off home again.

It gets young people off the streets on a Friday night, a crucial time for juvenile crime.

In Tasmania we allocated $148,000 for a mobile outreach van, drug and alcohol education programs and other recreational activities for young people that will operate across Tassie in Hobart, Launceston, Glenorchy, Clarence and Burnie.

In Broome we funded a $150,000 Learning Centre Project, which targets young people outside mainstream schooling with alternatives to finish their education.

These are young people, the majority of whom have criminal records, who without the PCYC, would almost certainly give up on education.

These are just three examples – three of 23 clubs we funded.

All paid for with money we have taken from criminals.

In the past ten years we have seized more than $168 million from criminals.

This is money that is then invested in law enforcement and crime prevention work like PCYCs.

We want to allocate more money to organisations like PCYCs. And we’ve got a plan to do it.

It’s called national unexplained wealth laws.

These laws reverse of onus of proof – that means the onus is on the criminal to prove how they obtained their cash and assets though legitimate means.

Big times criminals are more afraid of losing their money than they are of going to jail – and this is how to do it.

Remember American Gangster Al Capone?

How did Eliot Ness and the Untouchables end up locking him up?

By following the money.

They pinged him for tax evasion. That led to a catalogue of charges that saw him locked up for the rest of his life.

They followed the money.

We want to do the same with national unexplained wealth laws.

It will help us catch more criminals, and fund more crime prevention programs like the ones run by PCYCs.

To give you an idea of what we are talking about, the Australian Crime Commission estimates that 72 of their top organised crime targets each generated $10 million or more in the past two years.

Six of them have made more than $100 million each in the last two years.

This is what we are talking about seizing.

Two years ago the Federal Parliament passed unexplained wealth laws.

But they have limitations.

We’ve recently received advice on how they need to be reformed and expanded.

In March the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement recommended we seek a referral of powers from the States and Territories to establish a national unexplained wealth scheme.

In April the Attorney General and I wrote to the State and Territories asking them to consider referring powers to the Commonwealth so we can introduce these laws.

State and territories will still be able to use their own proceeds of crime systems to seize criminal assets.

But they will also be able to use these new national laws to seize more.

It means more money taken off criminals, more money for state and territories – and more money for organisations like PCYC.

The Attorney General and I will take these reforms to the next meeting of Attorney’s General in October.

Of course the focus of PCYC’s isn’t these big time criminals. It’s young people.

In some ways the work you are doing is harder today than it was in Woolloomooloo 75 years ago.

And that’s because the dangers are not just on the streets or at home – they are also online.

The internet revolution is the industrial revolution of our time.

It’s changing everything we do – the way we work, shop, pay our bills, find new jobs – talk to friends.

But it can also be a dangerous place.

I’m talking about cyber-bullying, cyber-crime, cyber-stalking – even cyber espionage.

This is fast becoming the top agenda item when police ministers and police commissioners meet here in Australia – and around the world.

Criminals are using the net to steal people’s identity, steal your superannuation, sell drugs and weapons and lots more.

And young people are often the target.

I think PCYC’s have an important role to play here.

I know that you are already incorporating things like cyber bullying in your programs across Australia.

I congratulate you on what you are doing. I think it’s crucial.

It’s why PCYC’s are just as relevant, and just as important, today as they were 75 years ago.

Because PCYC has been around so long it is easy to take it for granted.

I don’t. We would all be a lot poorer without you.

I know we are only here because of the commitment of people in this room – some over many decades.

And I want to thank you for it.

On behalf of the Federal Government, on behalf of the thousands of young people that you have helped, steered and guided over the last 75 years and on behalf of all the thousands of young people still to come.

Thank you.