Every year or so the media seems to declare that our ‘youth are in crisis’, and politicians rush in with promises of funding to ‘fix the problem’.
A few weeks later the bandwagon moves on with little having actually been done to address the challenges facing young people.
But an upcoming forum run by the Byron Youth Service aims to break this cycle of boom and bust by seeking long-term, community-based solutions that actively involve local youth.
Organised by one of the the service’s senior youth workers, Deb Pearse, ‘Young, Stung and Undone: what it’s like to be a teenager in today’s world,’ is intended to generate ideas that will effect real change over time.
‘I would love this to be a big brainstorming session where young people and adults can talk openly about what’s going on and what they think needs to be done,’ Ms Pearse says.
‘It’s a great opportunity for people to come up with ideas that we might not have thought of.’
Ms Pearse says that many of the key challenges facing young people are the same as they were 10 years ago – drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, mental illness and family breakdown.
‘A big difference is that young people are experiencing these things at a younger and younger age,’ she says.
‘They’re getting into risky behaviour and heading down unhealthy paths earlier on.
‘It means that we need to intervene earlier, before they’ve gone too far down the path.’
The other significant change, according to Ms Pearse, is the central role social media now plays in young people’s lives.
‘I think social media really ups the ante because a lot of what happens for young people basically takes place in public,’ she says.
‘It can really amplify anything that goes on, and I think it puts a lot more pressure on young people than in the past.’
Ms Pearse has assembled a group of panelists from the coal face of youth work in the Shire, Lisa Hopwood from the Buttery’s outreach program, Di Mahoney (Manager, Brisbane Youth Service), Paul Phillips (Intra and Headspace) and Mick Prigmore (Ballina Family Centre).
Mandy Nolan will also be on the panel to share her personal experience and unique take on the ebbs and flows of the Byron Shire.
The forum will take place from 6–9pm on August 21 at the Byron Youth Activity, 1 Gilmore Cr, Byron Bay.
For more information email [email protected]