Tweenage kids in need fall between the gaps

DEPRESSION, binge-drinking and living in a situation where the streets are safer than home.

These are some of the issues facing kids aged between nine and 14 in the Richmond Valley and Kyogle local government areas and they were among those discussed during a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry on Children and Young People, held in the Richmond Valley council chambers yesterday.

It was the first time such an inquiry had taken place in a rural area of NSW and brought together representatives from various health, housing and youth services with State Government representatives.

Lennox Head-based MLC, Catherine Cusack, said it was vital the needs of kids in this age group were being addressed. “Often at this age the path kids take can be altered,” she said.

Casino Neighbourhood Centre chief executive Noelene Olive said it was also often this age group that missed funding.

“There is a gap in services in this age group and it's also the age group that kids start to display inappropriate behaviour,” she said.

Co-ordinator of Casino Youth Service Centre, Beth Shelley, said it wasn't surprising that kids in the age group had issues, considering this was when they 'change schools and go through puberty'.

However chief executive officer of Dharah Gibinj Aboriginal Medical Service, Jeff Richardson, said 'you can't have a healthy and secure child without having a healthy and secure family'. He believed a more holistic approach should be taken to ensuring the health and safety of the kids.

“I feel hypocritical telling kids about the five food groups when they have no control over what goes into the shopping trolley,” he said.

Rev Peter Boughey, from the Uniting Church, also said the increase in family breakdown, domestic violence and substance abuse in society all affected kids in this age group.

Manager of ACE North Coast, Lynne Smith, offered a few solutions to the problem and suggested more meetings between community agencies took place.

“Often the only time agencies sit down to discuss these issues is at juvenile justice conferencing,” she said.

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