ALCOHOL and cannabis are the drugs of choice for Ballarat’s youth, according to a welfare leader in the city.
And a huge binge-drinking culture in the city was only exacerbating the problem, said UnitingCare’s chief executive Cliff Barclay.
Speaking on the findings of a survey on youth issues in Ballarat, Mr Barclay said it was disturbing to see so many of the city’s adolescents thinking it was acceptable to binge drink on a regular basis.
“There is a strong alcohol/binge-drinking/nightclub culture here in Ballarat. This plays a big part in our youth culture,” Mr Barclay said.
He was responding to the findings of the Strengthening Generations – Building Communities that Care, a survey of more than 1000 Ballarat adolescents on the issues most affecting them.
The survey revealed family conflict, alcohol and the availability of drugs were high on the list of concerns among the city’s youth.
Mr Barclay said he was not surprised by the results of the survey.
As the CEO of UnitingCare in Ballarat, Mr Barclay also oversees the running of a substance withdrawal unit geared towards the 16 to 22 year age group.
“Alcohol is a major part of the youth culture in this city, but this has to change in order for people to learn how to drink responsibly,” Mr Barclay said.
He played down claims by Ballarat youth this week that boredom was a major factor in exacerbating adolescent-related problems. “Our youth live in a very lucky city. Ballarat is a sports-rich and arts-rich community. We also have the YHQ drop-in centre and other services available to young people.
“I think today’s youth need to take some responsibility for finding their own entertainment ... this is a skill that has been lost over generations, but needs to be relearned.”
The high cost of sporting or arts activities also limited involvement by young people from low socio-economic families, Mr Barclay admitted. “Years ago, it cost virtually nothing, or at least peanuts, to play a sport. But it’s fair to say it costs a lot more to do things these days. There is definitely a financial barrier for some families.
“The City of Ballarat’s role in this is creating a structure to strengthen resilience.”
CEO of Child and Family Services in Ballarat, Kevin Zibell, also believed Ballarat was heading in the right direction to help the city’s youth, particularly with such programs as Strengthening Generations offering drug and alcohol education. A member of the Strengthening Generations committee, Mr Zibell said binge drinking, family conflict and youth depression were highlighted as major issues in the recent survey.