Around 60 turned up on a cold Thursday night to discuss solutions to the increase in youth violence in the area, particularly at hall events held in Byron Shire’s valleys.
Byron mayor Simon Richardson, Mullum High School principal Donna Pearson, police representatives and youth workers all contributed to debate, as did locals.
The event was held at the Mullum Civic Centre and was brought together by local DJ and event organiser Duncan Shipley-Smith, who was assaulted by young men at a recent Durrumbull Hall dance party in Main Arm.
Shipley-Smith told The Echo, ‘In the first instance I outlined the issues confronting our community with the incidents of youth violence, public safety, theft and property damage being paramount concerns and the key points on which the discussion was to be focused.’
‘I also made it clear I was not there to play the victim or initiate a witch-hunt, but simply wanted to create an inclusive and productive discussion with a view to initiating positive change.’
Principal Pearson made the point that the majority of kids in the local schools are ‘really, really good kids.’
‘It’s important to work with community on this,’ she said, and explained the positive counselling and academic programs that are available, which are in collaboration with Byron Youth Service (BYS) and community health.
‘We don’t expect students know how to behave and we try to help them learn appropriate behaviour,’ she said.
Nicqui Yazdi from BUDDI (Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative) says she had been involved in youth activities for more than ten years.
She said, ‘Very few parents got involved over that time,’ and that financially it was ‘problematic’. ‘There’s nothing to do – why aren’t we talking about youth events?’
‘We ran schoolies last year and we had a lot of problems with this group. We could identify them and told police. It’s not been a problem in the past. The problems are local kids not schoolies.’
Officer Gary Cowan from Tweed/Byron LAC also spoke, and said he agrees there are problems with youth violence.
‘We need to look at what happens at home,’ he said, adding he has a keen interest in the area as he was based at the Mullumbimby station.
He added there are only two police officers for the whole LAC area, excluding Byron Bay.
Gold Coast gangs
One of the more remarkable points made was that some in the audience believed there were gangs from the Gold Coast who may be supplying drugs and stealing personal belongings at the dance parties.
It was suggested that some young men would start a fight on purpose, which attracted attention, then other kids would go around and steal alcohol and personal items such as phones and bags. The items would then be thrown over the fence to waiting cars.
In reply, a policewoman told the audience that collecting evidence is crucial.
‘If you can get a photo on your phone of number plates, we can act upon reasonable suspicion,’ she said.
Outreach volunteer training
As part of the response to the escalation of youth violence, Byron Youth Service (BYS) have proposed a three-phase program, which they say can be flexible after phase one and ‘should young people give us different feedback.’
Phase one is barbecue and skateboards; phase two is martial arts drop-ins plus referrals; and phase three is a martial arts program.
Martial arts was flagged as a potential activity by martial arts instructors at the meeting.
BYS say they wish to provide a program for north of Byron Shire ‘that will target this group and engage them; however, we are limited by lack of funds and require community collaboration.’
Additionally BYS are seeking outreach volunteers, with a training day planned for July 28 from 1 till 5pm.
n For more info call Karim Kaufman on 0403 755 192, BYS on 6685 7777 or visit www.bys.org.au.