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March 1, 2021

Youth violence sparks Mullumbimby meeting

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The disused railway tunnel near Mullum has become a party venue. Photo from 2014 by Eve Jeffery

Paul Bibby

A public meeting will be held in Mullumbimby next Tuesday (September 25) to discuss solutions to the ongoing issues of youth violence and antisocial behaviour in the Shire’s north.

Organised by Deb Pearse from Byron Youth Service (BYS), the meeting is a response to a number of incidents of violence and intimidation that have occurred between South Golden Beach and Mullumbimby in recent months.

In the most recent of these incidents, a teenager suffered serious facial injuries when he was struck by a rock at a party in a disused train tunnel in Billinudgel.

A 15-year-old has been charged with recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm over the incident and will face court on September 24.

Ms Pearse said the meeting had been organised so that locals could discuss possible solutions to address such incidents.

‘Every couple of years, there seems to be this phenomenon somewhere in the Shire where there’s a large group of boys who are totally off the grid,’ she said.

‘Some come from fragmented homes and are outside the school system.

‘It seems at the moment, that’s happening in the north of the Shire.’

Ms Pearse said one of the ideas she would be raising for discussion at the meeting was setting up a program to access and engage with this group.

‘I think it needs to be a program that addresses the desire of these kids to engage in risk-taking behaviour but does so in a way that’s safe and doesn’t have a negative impact on the community.’

‘And I think it needs to be run by men who these boys can relate to and respect, men who might have had a similar experience growing up.’

She said that a lot of negative things were being said about the particular group of boys and that, while this reflected understandable community concerns, some of the talk had not been helpful or solutions based.  

‘It’s not useful to demonise these kids as some people have been doing – or talking about reprisals – nothing positive comes out of talking in that way.

‘If you give them the message again and again that they’re bad that’s what they’ll see themselves as.

‘I asked one of the older boys about it a little while ago and he said, “When society hates on you, you hate on society”.’

However, Ms Pearse acknowledged that those who had been on the receiving end of violent or antisocial behaviour were understandably angry, upset and concerned.

Civic Hall, September 25, 7pm

‘Violence is completely unacceptable,’ she said.

‘I really, really feel for the boy who was hit by the rock and his family. He did absolutely nothing wrong and there must be consequences for his injury.’

The meeting will be held on September 25 from 7 till 9pm at the Civic Hall in Mullumbimby.

It will be co-run by Ms Pearse and local comedian, columnist, social commentator and mother Mandy Nolan.

Light refreshments will be provided.

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