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Reflections on Platform 1225, 2024

Platform 1225, May 15th, was an action-packed day with brilliant presentations and an abundance of expertise shared throughout panels and express podiums. The usual good will and spirit of generosity returned with the youth sector this year. A round up of presenters sharing expertise – academic, lived and practice based ensured no one could hear a pin drop.

The truly respectful scene was set in large by Aunty Brenda Matthews who shared her story and inspired all in the room with messages of healing, personal responsibility, leading and sharing.  Her story is that of the nation’s – one of trauma and resilience; and a journey to recovery, one that begins with truth, telling the truth and working through the pain of the truth to understanding and a reflection of the core.

Each year, we set the platform as an introduction to the conference – this year we were keen to remind everyone of the importance of young people’s voices, and the importance of all of us using our voices especially when we have expertise to share, and important stances to take. We’ve talked lately about how often, even in workplaces focused on young people, our voices can be silenced, especially young people’s and young professionals. If we are going to genuinely be advocates, sometimes we’ll ruffle feathers even when being respectful. The saying ‘speak even when your voice is shaking’ can also include – ‘speak – even when no one is applauding. Quite the contrary, they may be booing’ – but it’s still important to speak what’s true and stand up for those who aren’t yet ready to do so themselves.

We’re also keen to keep in mind always the importance of checking our own biases and assumptions and calling out the stigma that still exists about young people across so many of our systems – from Out of Home Care to Mental Health to Homelessness experiences – young people talk constantly about how hard it is to be judged and stigmatised because of circumstances beyond their control. If we scratch the surface of that, it’s madness making. It’s nonsense and it needs to be called out. Finding a way to advocate for young people and build a relationship with them is core to the feedback from young people.

The feedback we hear most often from young people – and we can’t say this often enough – it’s a point we all need to celebrate and continue – is the value of workers. Workers matter. How workers treat young people matters most. When workers role model gentle guidance and kindness they can make a huge impact. QYHC is inundated by positive feedback from young people about workers no matter where in Queensland we go. It’s inspiring and it’s something we need to ensure we continue to grow – a strong workforce of competent and compassionate workers like many of those in our sector today.

Assistant Housing Minister, Ali King, spoke generously of QYHC and Specialist Youth homelessness services as crucial elements of the Miles government, particularly under commitments of the Towards Ending Homelessness for Young Queenslanders and Homes for Queenslanders. She spoke of the need to bring young people’s lived expertise along  with us – nothing about us without us. Person centred – untied funding is important. She congratulated young people and the sector for being at Platform 1225 and said that in some cases we’re speaking truth to power: “It’s hard to speak up when systems haven’t always served you well”.

She spoke of her pride in Homes for Queenslanders and the significant pressures on the housing market by various factors, most notably intra state migration. She spoke of the inspiration from young people who use our services and offered an overview of recent enhancements to the sector.

Aunty Brenda Matthews told her story of loss, disconnection and abandonment as a young Aboriginal Child stolen from her family in February of 1973. A family finally able to demonstrate after years of advocacy and fighting to have their children returned, that they were not negligent – upon removal all 7 children passed their health checks and Brenda’s parents had no idea what they did wrong.

Brenda’s story is also one of hope, reconciliation, and healing.   After being removed one day in February when her father went to work and her Mum heard a knock at the door, opening it changed their lives for ever. It’s the heartbreaking story of the stolen generation we’ve heard many times before but continue to manage to keep a distance from. For all the heartbreak, this is a stark reminder of the way we do business – sometimes it’s simply not OK!

Torn between 2 worlds, returning home was as traumatising as leaving – remembering another family and feeling a stranger with her family of origin, the road ahead was peppered with challenges, trauma and unending questions of identity, mostly dual identity. The answer for Aunty Brenda was to find the truth, tell the truth, own her anger and hurt and work through it. She was determined that her family’s hurt end with her. She never wanted her children to see the haunted look she saw on her Mum’s face and began to recognise on her own. She didn’t want hurt and pain to be her reflection. In her search for understanding she came to realise you can change when you understand your story.

Noone wanted to take responsibility for us being taken away, I had to reflect on myself.   Often we’re afraid to go back because the truth hurts us but the truth will also set you free. It has to be a heart condition, when you change your own heart. Once we understand we can start sharing. Lived experience helps us all – we all have one!

Reciprocal relationship humanises and humbles us instead of politicising. It’s an empowering experience to make the decision to change your own internal narrative.

In a sea of emotions feeling lost and untethered her first lesion was connecting to country and recognising the resilience of Elders who’ve walked before. She sees her whole story as a reflection of this country. “My history has become my victory”.  

Professor Cameron Parsell thanked Auty Brenda for her profoundly powerful presentation.

Professor Parsell is a voice of reason in a complex homelessness conversation, that probably need not be so complex! His offerings on the status quo and solutions are very much needed. Professor Cameron Parsell argued that Ending homelessness requires societal transformation.
He noted that the 2008 the white paper used the language of ending homelessness, now the Commonwealth government uses language of addressing homelessness – it’s different and far less ambitious. OECD says that homelessness can accelerate death by 35 years. That’s a sobering statistic.

Homelessness makes your life dangerous; those who experience it normalise constant threat. They’re often victims of crime and sometimes need to perpetrate violence to create safety. It’s profoundly bad for relationships, most notably it severs relationships between parents and children.

There are human consequences of homelessness:

  • Relationships are at the core of what’s important.
  • Identified as homeless people – important in terms of stigma and putting ‘other’ on them – with low expectations.
  • Forcing people into dependent relationships which is highly problematic when the aim is interdependence.
  • It makes it hard to engage as expected as members of society.

The most poignant reality of all that needs to matter to all – homelessness is a societal failure that produces human suffering.  We can end homelessness though housing first. Safe with a closed door and kettle to boil is a sense of control to organise the predictability of life and feel safe. Then they can make choices about supports and engagement with services – once they feel safe and their days are more predictable.

He couldn’t stress the importance of permanency enough – 75% of people provided with permanence in housing left at some point. Permanency and security is the stability to create opportunities and readiness to work on what’s next.

Professor Sike Meyer overviewed one of the most perplexing issues for youth services – the many facets of domestic and family violence and its specific and unique impact on young people. Placing young people front and centre in domestic and family violence prevention and healing she noted the importance of recognising children and young people as victim/survivors in their own right.

This includes children recognised as victims even where DFV is not ‘directed’ at them; recognising that ‘Witnessing’ DFV has significant effects on social, emotional & physical development​; ‘Witnessing’ does not require being in the same room ​and that Children’s involvement in DFV beyond ‘witnessing’ (e.g. coercive control).



Professor Meyer spoke to additional vulnerabilities across various cohort of young people including those with disability and LGBTIQ+ young people.

Young people stated their needs as – somewhere to go, someone safe to talk to. The importance of safe school cultures was highlighted also.

We’re not yet responding in a way that is young people centric or even young people friendly. We minimise the impact of dating violence on young people and neglect to intervene and offer appropriate supports to those who’ve experienced DFV at home, a key reason for young people becoming homeless.

QNADA’s Rebecca Lang spoke to Reducing harms associated with drugs – opportunities for improved system responses to young people. She reminded us of the importance of language: drugs are used, they can’t be abused – because they don’t have feelings. 



The Services Union’s Jennifer Thomas echoed young people in talking to the importance of the workforce, in particular ensuring that workers are well skilled, safe and supported. She spoke to the youth sector workforce campaigns with QYHC and YANQ and the collective commitment to ensure a well-resourced, robust and capable workforce.

Across all presentations at Platform 1225 this year, central themes emerged – serendipitously uniting the sector in what’s next. These themes and the key messages of the day were impactful for our SYHS workshop on day 2. Personal and collective responsibility. We need to be individuals prepared to do what we need to be holistically well, organisations need to be committed to the same, as do governments. We can look to government to resource us but we as communities have the solutions – place by place, for us with us. We all have a story and we all have lived experience, it’s our responsibility to understand our own story, learn and reflect. We all experience and carry trauma, hurt and pain. Aunty Brenda asked: How do you navigate yourself and your own hurt and pain and lived experiences? When we navigate that space, we can lead by example and support others.

Reciprocal relationship and connection are the way forward across all our communities. Relational and reflective practice came up trump – yet again! As did place based responses.

Young people spoke to the importance of workers, those who go the extra distance, listen and understand. They also highlighted that all young people need support and guidance, regardless of trauma-based behaviours. Those committing crimes are often the most hurt and marginalised young people who have fallen through the cracks. They need guidance and hanging in there with them the most. The earlier we meet their needs, the better for all. Engaging with young people is so important – in whatever capacity we work – we need to engage, relate, and reflect.

A huge thank you to our sponsors: Life Without Barriers (LWB) and The Services Union (TSU), our young people and our fabulous presenters and panellists!!!