Rare chance to have a say

YOUNG people from Lismore were given a rare opportunity to have their voices heard during the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Children and Young People 9 to 14 Years yesterday.

Director of the Centre for Children and Young People, Associate Professor Anne Graham, said it was rare that young people were allowed to address an inquiry and it was only approved following a submission by the centre.

“We didn't think they'd actually do anything about our request to have young people from our centre talk at the inquiry, however, they chose Lismore as a site for the meeting so they could hear the kids speak,” she said.

Eighteen-year-old Tully Rodwell, from Alstonville, addressed the committee at Invercauld House and said it was great to speak directly to representatives in a position to do something about issues faced by young people in the Lismore Council area.

Tully spoke about employers taking advantage of young people in the workplace, and inadequate counselling services at schools.

“Putting more counsellors into schools isn't the answer,” he said.

“One of the main problems is the quality of counselling available, which is often straight out of a textbook and carried out by people that are sometimes too old to relate to students,” he said.

Lismore resident Ben Cooper raised issues such as an inadequate transport system which is leading some young people to resort to hitchhiking, as well as the difficulties faced by living in a rural area.

Tully's mother, Karen, was also at the inquiry and said it was great to see so many agencies and state representatives gathered to assist kids travel smoothly through this age group.

Mrs Rodwell agreed that success would come if a holistic approach was taken.

“Usually these problems aren't as complicated as they first appear and just take a bit of communication between different groups.”

Mrs Rodwell, who is the mother of seven, said one really had to trust the system, so it was important that there were not many major shortcomings in any area.

She also praised the inquiry, which examined areas such as transport, employment and mental health in relation to young people, and said people often were too scared to speak up when they saw cracks in the system.

“It's also important to stand up and challenge the system because it doesn't always work,” she said.

Ms Graham said she hoped positive action would result from the inquiry.

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