Kids give drug forum the flick
ABOUT 150 youth workers, councillors, politicians and parents attended a drug and alcohol forum called 'What's happening to our kids?' in%Byron Bay on Saturday. How-%ever, only three young people turned up.
Ulani Leena, 16, from Ocean Shores, and Tayla Scott, 14, from Clunes, said they had seen first-hand the effects of binge drinking and substance abuse on their peers and thought the forum would help them find ways to deal with it.
"I've got a few friends as young as 12 and 13 who are drinking and wagging school. I'm a happy 14-year-old and I want to help them and get the word out," Tayla said.
Both girls attend Shearwater Steiner School in Mullumbimby, and said they were taught about the risks of drugs and alcohol in a Year 8 subject at school.
"It should be started from Year 6 because people are starting earlier. There are 10-year-olds off their face in Byron on Friday nights," Tayla said.
"We need more places to go. Even in Lismore at nights everyone is out on the streets. There's not many restaurants or cafes open, there's no all ages nightclubs. It's all pubs."
The girls were impressed with the presentation by Byron Youth Service director Paul Spooner.
Mr Spooner focused heavily on the way alcohol manufacturers marketed their drinks to make them attractive to young people.
"There is this whole group of drinks now known as 'alco pops' that are aimed directly at teenagers. They have a sweet taste because young girls don't like the taste of alcohol," he said.
"Choice Magazine did a survey and one-in-four people thought there was no alcohol in them.
"It's all about making it attractive to teenagers."
Mr Spooner said young people in Byron were no different from anywhere else in the country, but needed a venue where drug and alcohol-free events could be held.
"We need to get the Youth Activities Centre back open so there can be an alternative space to go and put some money into art and cultural stuff for young people," he said.
He also proposed the idea of an 'alcohol-free day' for the shire to coincide with the annual Youth Week celebrations. Another speaker was Bangalow psychologist Peter Chown.
He said that while drugs such as ice and ecstasy were becoming more available, alcohol was still the number one drug in terms of damage to adults and young people.
"It's a legal drug and very easy to get," he said.
"Prohibition doesn't work, but I think the industry needs to be made more accountable," he said.
"We need to have a better education process for parents and families, and I think we need to look at policy changes to restrict access."
Byron mayor Jan Barham urged everyone at the forum to stay involved and follow through on any initiatives that came out of the forum.
"In my experience these things are cyclical," she said. "I recall a similar meeting in 2005 when the community came together.
"There were hundreds of people there, but then just three weeks later when we organised a follow-up meeting there were only three of us."