‘It’s a whole generation we’re losing’: How a regional town tackled youth unemployment

In the town of Cessnock, in the NSW Hunter Valley, a generation of young people is caught in a cycle of unemployment.


Youths are faced with the staggering challenge of landing a job without the relevant skills.

Until recently, Phoebe Morris was one of those people.

She told SBS World News it was a difficult experience because employers want young people with skills and those skills can take time, money and experience to acquire. 

“I grew up here, went to school. My mum – single mum – just lost a job last year, and we’ve been living off what savings she has,” she said.

“It’s really hard trying to find a job when they need experience and the qualifications – qualifications are costly and you can’t get a job to cover those costs. And I’m trying my hardest. I want a job. I want to support myself.”

It is a situation feeding a brand of hopelessness among a large swell of young, working-age people in the region.

Until recently, Phoebe Morris was one of hundreds in Cessnock struggling to find work.SBS

Cessnock’s mayor, Bob Pysent, says youth unemployment is detrimental to the social fabric of the community. 

“(It’s) devastating to young people to feel valueless to our society,” he said. “It causes social problems, but it also decreases the vibrancy in our community.

“Young people working, studying, they spend money, it’s stimulating to our local economy.”

The Economic Development Manager at Cessnock City Council, Jane Holdsworth, knows just how bad the situation is.

“The (number) of parents I’ve spoken to who just don’t know what’s happening with their children these days, they don’t get it. The kids don’t talk to them anymore. They’ve got no control,” she said. 

“It’s a whole generation we’re losing here, a whole generation who are committing suicide. They’re depressed. They don’t know what to do.”

In 2015, youth unemployment in the Hunter Valley reached 21 per cent, the highest rate in New South Wales and fourth highest in Australia.

Faced with the burgeoning pressure of a generation of young people unable to find full-time work, Cessnock City Council devised a plan to break young people into the workforce.

The Youth First Project, run by the council at the Hunter Valley Visitor Centre, provides hands-on training.SBS

The Youth First Project, run by the council at the Hunter Valley Visitor Centre, provides hands-on training to youths to help them gain the skills required to land a job.

Council employees have trained them in such areas as hospitality, wine-tasting and tourism – all relevant to the type of employment unique to the region.

In just over six months 14 people have been through the 12-week course. 

It’s turning things around for Phoebe Morris, one of four youths enrolled in the current program. 

She says, weeks into the course, she landed a job.

“Incredible. I’m so happy, over the moon,” she said.

“But without this program, I wouldn’t have got it, because it’s people like Jane and Melissa and the centre here who got me in, have got me trained, got me that experience and that knowledge and the skill set that I need to get out there and get that experience.”

Freya Campbell is a 22-year-old also taking part, and, although she is yet to find employment, she insists she is on track to get there.

“I’m still applying, and I’ve got so much more support,” she said. “People are actually wanting to help me and make sure that I do get a job, not just sign me off on a course and then that’s it sort of thing. I’ve got support through the whole process.

“I’m getting actual hands-on experience and getting solid references that are relevant. But I am surprising myself with what I’ve able to do that I didn’t think I would be able to do.”

Jane Holdsworth says the young trainees are thriving off the program.SBS

Ms Holdsworth says the young trainees are thriving off the program.

“You see them being empowered, you see them… their self-esteem, their self-confidence, comes out,” she said.

“They start learning to deal with people. And they all get a surprise. They think, ‘I never thought I’d like dealing with people,’ and they do.”

The Youth First Project has an 80 per cent success rate, and the hope is it can be developed into a model all local councils across Australia can use.

The national youth-unemployment rate sits at around 13 per cent, the figure persistently high since the global financial crisis.

At this stage, the Cessnock program can only cater to 20 students per year.

Ms Campbell would like to see it expanded so others in her position are given the same opportunities.

“This course that we’re doing is excellent, but there’s four of us at a time,” she said. “And it’s sort of like, ‘What about the rest of the people in the same situation as me?’ It’s really excellent for me and three others who are doing it with me, but what about everybody else?”

Ms Holdsworth is calling for state and federal government funding which would allow community-led programs like the Youth First Project to be rolled out across Australia.

“It’s proven that you can do it. And there are other councils out there, they’ve told me they’d love to do something like we’re doing here,” she said.

“But we need a bit of funding, and, if we can do that, if every council in Australia put (in) 20 young kids and got them a job at the end of the year, that’s over 14,000 to 15,000 created jobs every year.”

The Youth First project in Cessnock is producing positive results but there’s still much to be done to solve the town’s youth unemployment woes.

The Council estimates there are hundreds of young people still looking for work.

READ MOREThe Feed Forum: Boomers vs Gen Y

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Portugal crowned winner of Eurovision Song Contest 2017

A new Eurovision winner has been crowned – Portugal’s Salvador Sobral, 26.


The winner came as a surprise after Italy’s entry had topped most major betting odds for over a month.  

Portugal’s odds were ranked within the top five during most of the competition, moving the second place following the Semi Finals.  

Could he be any sweeter? #swoon #POR #SBSEurovision pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/rjsmsyBzmB

— SBS Australia (@SBS) May 13, 2017Watch: Australia votes in Eurovision

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Sobral battled a heart condition during the contest, and attended the competition shortly after surgery. 

The song was written by Sobral’s sister, Luisa, who also filled in for her brother during the first and second rehearsals because of his heath condition.

Social media was ablaze with support for the artist following his performance this morning.

Watch: Portugal celebrates Eurovision win

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DAMN THIS WAS BEAUTIFUL #POR #Eurovision so much poetry!!! 😍❤️❤️

— • Sophie˚☆• (@MalecWings) May 13, 2017#Eurovision I’m in love with this song, reminds me of a warm summer night and makes me just go: 🌜💕#Por #@bbceurovision pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/ooYgfviHwU

— pierogi in the uk (@pierogiintheuk) May 13, 2017PORTUGAL DESERVED SO SO SO SO MUCH THIS VICTORY #Eurovision

— Kalya (@blablaimfab) May 13, 2017

Portugal competed with 25 other countries, including the Big 5 who automatically qualify for the finals without going through a Semi Finals voting round.

The Big Five included Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the UK, all of whom contribute the most financially to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) each year. 

Voting results from Eurovision 2017. EBU

Australian entrant, Isaiah who had also qualified for the Grand Final following Semi Final 1 on Wednesday ranked ninth over all. 

This year’s Eurovision was hosted by Ukraine in its capital Kyiv, following the win of 2016 Ukrainian entrant, Jamala, last year.

Watch: Isaiah Firebrace performs in the Eurovision grand final

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Emmanuel Macron takes over as France’s youngest ever president

Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated as France’s youngest ever president on Sunday, saying the country had chosen “hope” and promising to relaunch the flagging European Union.


Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, took the reins of power from Francois Hollande a week after he won a resounding victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a tumultuous election.

After a warm welcome from Hollande at the Elysee Palace, the two men held a closed-doors meeting during which Macron was handed the codes to launch France’s nuclear arsenal.


In a moment heavy with symbolism, 62-year-old Hollande – who launched Macron’s political career by appointing him first as advisor and then economy minister – was then driven away from the palace to applause from his staff and the new president.

The former investment banker who had never even contested an election before was then proclaimed president by Laurent Fabius, president of the Constitutional Council.

“In order to be the man of one’s country, one must be the man of your time,” Fabius told him.

“You are now the man of your time … and by the sovereign choice of the people, you are now, above all … the man of our country.”

Watch: Macron unveils En Marche candidates

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In his first speech, Macron said the French people had chosen “hope” and shown a willingness to change in the election.

He promised that the EU, hit by the imminent departure of Britain, would be “rejuvenated and relaunched” during his time in office.

“The world and Europe need France now more than ever and they need a strong France with a sense of its own destiny.”

To underline his European ambitions, Macron will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday in his first foreign trip.

The new president’s wife Brigitte, a 64-year-old who was his high school drama teacher, listened to his sombre 12-minute speech wearing a light blue Louis Vuitton outfit.

Republican guards arrive for Emmanuel Macron’s formal inauguration ceremony as French President.AP

At the end of the formalities, a 21-gun salute rang out from the Invalides military hospital on the other side of the River Seine.

Macron was later to be driven to the Arc de Triomphe to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

The new president faces a host of daunting challenges including tackling stubbornly high unemployment, fighting Islamist-inspired violence and uniting a deeply divided country.

Socialist Hollande’s five years in power were plagued by a sluggish economy and bloody terror attacks that killed more than 230 people and he leaves office after a single term.

Security was tight, with around 1,500 police officers deployed near the presidential palace and the nearby Champs Elysees avenue and surrounding roads blocked off.

After a formal lunch, Macron will visit Paris’s town hall, a traditional stop for any new French president in his “host” city.

PM named, then Berlin

Macron’s first week will be busy. On Monday, he is expected to reveal the closely-guarded name of his prime minister, before flying to Berlin.

It is virtually a rite of passage for French leaders to make their first European trip to meet the leader of the other half of the so-called “motor” of the EU.

Pro-EU Macron wants to push for closer cooperation to help the bloc overcome the imminent departure of Britain, another of its most powerful members.

He intends to press for the creation of a parliament and budget for the eurozone.

The red carpet is set up prior to the takeover ceremony between President Francois Hollande and President-elect Emmanuel Macron.AP

Merkel welcomed Macron’s decisive 32-point victory over Le Pen, saying he carried “the hopes of millions of French people and also many in Germany and across Europe”.

In June, Macron faces what the French media are calling a “third round of the presidential election” when the country elects a new parliament in a two-round vote.

The new president needs an outright majority to be able to enact his ambitious reform agenda.

The year-old political movement “Republique en Marche” (Republic on the Move, REM) that he formed to launch his presidential bid intends to field candidates in virtually every constituency in the country.

It unveiled 428 of its 577 candidates this week, saying it wants to bring fresh faces into the National Assembly lower house of parliament.

Half of them have never held elected office, including a retired female bullfighter and a star mathematician, and half of them are women.

Macron won one of the most unpredictable French elections in modern history marked by scandal, repeated surprises and a last-minute hacking attack on his campaign.

The election saw voters reject France’s two traditional political forces of left and right. Their candidates were eliminated in the first round.

Unpopular Hollande was the first to bow to the rebellious mood in December as he became the first sitting president not to seek re-election in the French fifth republic, founded in 1958.


Trump calls for stronger sanctions against North Korea after latest ‘provocation’

President Donald Trump has called for tougher sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test.


“Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea,” the White House said in a brief statement.

The missile impacted “so close to Russian soil – in fact, closer to Russia than to Japan – the president cannot imagine that Russia is pleased.”


North Korea “has been a flagrant menace for far too long,” the statement added.

“South Korea and Japan have been watching this situation closely with us.”

The statement emphasises that the United States “maintains our ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the face of the serious threat posed by North Korea.”

The latest ballistic missile test was an apparent bid to test both South Korea’s new liberal president and the US.

The US and South Korea have recently signalled an interest in negotiations with North Korea to ease months of tensions.

The missile flew more than 700 kilometres (435 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan.

The US Pacific Command said it did not appear to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who was inaugurated on Wednesday, slammed the test as a “reckless provocation” after holding an emergency meeting with national security advisors.

Watch: North Korean missile landed in Sea of Japan

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He said the government strongly condemned this “grave challenge to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the international community,” his spokesman Yoon Young-Chan said.

Moon, unlike his conservative predecessors, advocates reconciliation with Pyongyang but warned Sunday that dialogue would be possible “only if the North changes its behaviour”.

Moon had said in his inauguration speech that he was willing to visit Pyongyang “in the right circumstances” to defuse tensions on the peninsula, with Pyongyang and Washington exchanging hostile rhetoric.

“The North is apparently trying to test Moon and see how his North Korea policy as well as policy coordination between the South and the US will take shape,” said Yang Moo-Jin, professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

‘Seeking leverage’

The launch was also aimed at “maximising the North’s political leverage” ahead of possible negotiations with the US, as Pyongyang and Washington both recently signalled they were open to talks, he added.

“The North wants to show before negotiations that their precious, powerful weapon is not something they would give up so easily,” Yang said.

Trump has threatened military action against the North but recently appears to have softened his stance, saying he would be “honoured” to meet the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un under the right conditions.

Watch: North Korea lashes out at US

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Choe Son-Hui, a senior official at the North’s foreign ministry handling its US policy, also said Saturday the North would be willing to hold talks with the US if the conditions are right.

Washington has been looking to China for help in reining in Kim and the missile test is likely to embarrass Beijing, which is hosting a summit Sunday to promote its ambitious global trade infrastructure project.

China, the isolated North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline, has been reluctant to exert pressure to upset the status quo in Pyongyang and risk an influx of refugees from its neighbour.

‘Fast progress’

The latest test was also the North’s first launch since a controversial US missile defence system deployed in the South became operational on May 2 and follows a failed April 29 ballistic missile test.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slammed the latest missile launch as “totally unacceptable” and a “grave threat” to Tokyo.

“We strongly protest against North Korea,” he said. 

The North has staged two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the start of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Most experts have doubted that the North has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with that range.

But many say the isolated nation has made a great progress in its nuclear and missile capabilities since Kim took power after the death of his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011.

Yang said Sunday’s launch showed “fast progress” in Pyongyang’s missile capability. 

The missile was fired from a site near the northwestern city of Kusong. A previous test at the same site in February sent a missile 500 kilometres, far less than Sunday’s launch.


Europol: More than 200,000 cyberattack victims identified in 150 countries

The unprecedented global ransomware cyberattack has hit more than 200,000 victims in more than 150 countries, Europol executive director Rob Wainwright has said.


The head of the pan-European Union policing agency said that few had given in to the demands for payment to unblock files so far, but warned that the situation was escalating.

Wainwright said he was worried that the ransomware attack might spread further once people return to work on Monday and log on to their computers.


“We are running around 200 global operations against cyber crime each year but we’ve never seen anything like this,” he told Britain’s ITV television.

“The latest count is over 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries. Many of those victims will be businesses, including large corporations.

“The global reach is unprecedented.”

He said the motivation remained unknown but ransomware attacks were normally “criminally minded”.

Watch: Ciaran Martin on global cyberattack 

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“Remarkably few payments so far have been made, so most people are not paying this,” Wainwright said.

“We’re in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up.

“I’m worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn on their machines on Monday morning.”

European banks well protected

Wainwright said the attack was indiscriminate, fast-spreading and unique because the ransomware was being used in combination with a worm – meaning that the infection of one computer could automatically spread it through an entire network.

He said few banks in Europe had been affected, having learned through the “painful experience of being the number one target of cyber crime” the value of having the latest cyber security in place.

“We have been concerned for some time that the healthcare sectors in many countries are particularly vulnerable. They’re processing a lot of sensitive data,” he said.

Watch: Cyberattacks wreak havoc worldwide

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Britain’s state-run National Health Service was affected by the attack.

Wainwright said Europol was working with the FBI in the United States to track down those responsible, saying that more than one person was likely behind it.

He said the cyber crime scene was increasingly going underground, meaning it was “very difficult” to identify the offender or their location.

“We’re in a very difficult fight against these ever more sophisticated cyber crime syndicates that are using encryption to hide their activity,” he said.

Wainwright said Europol provided free downloads of decryption programmes for most ransomware.

“Once we get to the bottom of this one, we’ll make sure that this is available to people as well,” he said.