Muswellbrook PCYC marks 30th anniversary and honours founder David Sorensen

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: Then-officer David Sorensen and Minister for Education and Youth Affairs the The Hon Virginia Chadwick opening the facility in 1990.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: Then-officer David Sorensen and Minister for Education and Youth Affairs the The Hon Virginia Chadwick opening the facility in 1990.

LAST Wednesday, Muswellbrook PCYC and many other community members gathered to celebrate the facility's 30th anniversary.

Several people involved in it's original repurposing in the late 1980's were mentioned and honoured, but none more so than former police officer David Sorensen.

After being asked for an impromptu speech by PCYC manager Dee-anne Douglas, he showed off his impressive memory and went through the backstory of what is now one of the town's most prominent organisations.

The background:

In 1987, some local officers begun thinking of how they could address the issue of youth crime in the region. The initial idea was to start blue light discos, which were run every month and helped local law enforcement to identify with younger people.

However, as the population began to grow, so did youth crime and it was decided that more needed to be done. So, then community based policing officer Sorensen and constable Huggett, along with several others, set up a committee to help deal with the issue.

"We identified that this group of young people were becoming consistent repeat offenders, and there was a lot of young people who were at high risk of falling into that category and there was a desperate need to do something," said former constable Sorenson.

The next step took a while, with numerous fund raises and a government grant - largely courtesy of then state MP George Souris - leading to them purchasing what was then a building owned by the Electricity Commission, which had been used to train apprentices.

They were unable to officially run it as a PCYC, given those in charge at the time were convinced Singleton and Tamworth were sufficient to service Muswellbrook.

But alas, they pushed on and named it the Upper Hunter Citizens and Police Youth Club, although eventually had to drop the 'Police' from the name.

The beginning:

In 1989, with the building purchased it was time to begin some programs, and a youth committee was set up to help determine what would be useful for young locals.

A group of 30 youths were identified to be part of a program run by constable Huggett and officer Sorenson, and they were taken down to Milson Island for some physical and mental training.

"We taught them things like self-motivation, improving their morale, ethics, how to show respect for people in authority - and back then there was no respect for people with authority," he said.

Domestic skills such as cooking, washing up and making a bed were also taught along with funner activities such as canoeing and abseiling. By the end of the year, significant inroads had been made.

"Twelve months after that we were getting reports from the teachers and families that these boys had just changed, and we thought 'Wow, the program works, the club works, let's just get it going'," he noted.

A couple of years later, officer Sorenson departed to join the water police, but he continued to monitor the club's status and was pleased in 1996 when it officially became affiliated with the PCYC.

The present:

These days, the amount of programs run by the PCYC seem countless, under the careful watch of Dee-anne Douglas.

Former cst. Sorensen is now back in town and thrilled with the current state of organisation.

At a celebratory morning tea, Ms Douglas took the chance to thank frm cst Sorenson and the others involved in its beginning.

"Today means everything to us, to be able to honour the two gentlemen who actually started this journey," she said.

"We wouldn't be able to do it without the police and it's lovely to know that's where it all started from."

As a final touch, a plaque that was stuck out the front of the facility honouring its founders which was taken off over 20 years ago will now be re-posted.


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