When I was a kid we went skating. There was a drive-in. A cafe with booths that we gathered at, eating burgers and playing Space Invaders. There was a regular Blue Light Disco. And I lived in a shitty country town with nothing to offer.
Here we are in the Byron Shire with so much talent at our fingertips. So many innovators. So much capital and there’s nothing for our teenagers. We need to start giving a shit about our kids. Not just the ones in our bellies or on our back seat, but the ones in the street, the ones hitching into town, the ones getting drunk and causing trouble. The ones we look at and think ‘thank god that’s not my kid’.
Well, guess what, you live in a community, and that is your kid. Everyone’s kid should be our responsibility. An idyllic paradise promoting the utopian dream, Byron Bay should have state-of-the-art youth facilities. It should at the very least have an amazing children’s park for the littlies – all bespoke and wooden, crafted by artisans out of breadboards and kale. Instead we have beachfront playgrounds littered with bottles and ciggie butts.
What about a beachfront skatepark? Or one of those temporary inflatable water parks? A PCYC? A cafe where kids actually feel welcome? It’s great not to have McDonald’s, but could we have a cafe where kids can actually afford to eat and recognise something on the menu? We have none of this. Nothing that tells our young people that they matter, that they can see benefit from the constant invasion of holiday makers.
The other day a local youth worker posted on Facebook about her disappointment with the lack of interest and engagement of the wider community, and namely, the Byron business community, in the welfare of the kids in our region. I guess it’s easy to blame the parents and forget about the bigger picture of what it feels like to live in a town where you’ll never be able to rent a house or afford to live. Where you see all the services and energy in your town geared to the visitor, and not the resident. Certainly not the under-18 resident. If you’re not legal to drink you sink.
The youth worker noted how many initiatives to keep kids safe, occupied and meaningfully engaged had been brought to a halt because of a lack of cash and a complete lack of interest of anyone in the business community to step up. It seems crazy that in a town absolutely bloated with affluence and opportunity that so little benefit trickles down to the young. I don’t think they want a bypass, or more development, more shopping districts on streets that no longer feel or look like home. What have they got to look forward to here? It must make you feel a little locked out of your hometown when everything is laid on for milking that big creamy tourist cow, but nothing for you. It’s enough to make you a little tourist intolerant.
It’s time those who profit from the 1.7 million tourists each year to put their fat little arms into their bulging pockets and throw some cash on the community table. And I’m talking real cash, not the spare change you hide from the tax man. That’s right, you big fat profiteers, I’m talking to you. Do something big. Something impressive. PUT BACK.
Build something. Fund something. Have a vision. Make it happen. Stop relying on volunteers to do the job of paid workers. We don’t live in a region of limited resources; we live in a region of financial abundance… for some. Frankly, the ratepayer is sick of having to pick up the tab on all the infrastructure costs around here and not even get a pothole successfully filled while businesses like Woolies sit with fingers in ears going la la la.
The irony of a rate rise just after a forum on the lack of housing affordability doesn’t go unnoticed. This place is crazy. You know what under-18s in our region, Byron, Lismore, Ballina, Ocean Shores, Mullumbimby, Lennox etc have to do on a Friday or Saturday night? They get ‘sloppy at toppy’. Basically it’s getting smashed at the park opposite Main Beach. When it gets messy we use our police to clean up.
It’s not like we don’t know. We all know this has been happening for years. God knows I’ve had to pick my kids up there on numerous occasions. That’s what we offer them here. Underage drinking in a poorly lit park. Somehow, that doesn’t feel like the Byron dream. We can do better. Affluent Byron can do better. They just choose not to. Shame on them.