Push for more youth services
By Mary Mann
BALLINA is not an 'old people's town'. This simple statement may come as a surprise to many but if you look beyond the slow pace of wrinkled arms and legs strolling the footpaths, the dozens of scooters buzzing through the main street and the 'pleasant, jolly' look on retirees' faces, you will see there is a booming population of young people and young families who call Ballina home.
And they're not getting what they need.
With this in mind, 18 community members, including youth workers and welfare agency representatives, met at Ballina's Richmond Room yesterday to brainstorm achievable goals and plans for youth in the shire.
The forum, run by Ballina District Community Services Association (BDCSA), came after a Youth Forum held last month, which identified some of the main concerns for youth in the Ballina area.
"We took all of the youths' suggestions and presented them to the movers and shakers, the people who provide the funding and services," BDCSA youth promotions officer Gary Johnston said.
"The reality is there are tons of young people in Ballina, but there aren't many services for them.
"That's why we called these forums," he said. "It's easy to say what needs to happen but things will only change with will, enthusiasm and positivity."
Dianna Howell, BDCSA executive officer, said getting youths into BDCSA's youth activity centre was a critical step in informing them about other services in the area. "A big criticism has been that we have the services but we are not getting people in there," Ms Howell said.
Some of the items identified as 'what Ballina Shire youth want' included more special activities such as music festivals and outdoor movies, for Youth Week and current youth services to be publicised more, and using local school facilities in the evenings for activities geared toward young people.
Some of the suggestions from those attending yesterday's forum included looking at a new approach to youth services in Ballina, not just giving out pamphlets but 'really showing an interest', establishing a drop-in centre for youth, and making information more accessible for young people.
The findings of the forum will be posted on the BDCSA website at www.bdcsa.org.