COMMUNITY leaders have come out in defence of programs and services available to troubled youth in Ballarat.
While they admit that Ballarat youth face issues of binge drinking, family conflict and depression, the city stalwarts all agree that the region is a supportive and engaging community for its youth.
They were responding to the release of a study about health and wellbeing issues facing Ballarat’s adolescents.
Leading Senior Constable Des Hudson, who is also a long-standing City of Ballarat councillor, said the region’s youth portrayed a positive image.
“The youth here are lucky to have a community that cares (about them),” Leading Senior Constable Hudson said.
He dispelled as myth and community perception that all young people took drugs in Ballarat. “Most young people (in this region) make good, sensible decisions.
“From the city’s point of view, Ballarat is no different to any other town this size. As a whole, the city is trying to change the environment (for our youth) by offering opportunities to succeed.”
Jodie Downey, project officer with Strengthening Generations, which initiated the study, said mental health and family conflict issues were highly important to Ballarat’s youth.
“The report represented students from a number of schools in the Ballarat community. The findings (of the report) only confirmed what the issues were here,” Ms Downey said.
The report will be made available to district schools and will be shared with teachers and parents. Findings in the report will be used as evidence to identify key issues to be addressed and preventative programs to be initiated concerning youth in the city.
“(This program) strengthens the community partnership. Through Strengthening Generations we can work as a community ... we can pull together to provide a healthy and safe environment for our young people,” Ms Downey said.
Vicki Coltman, executive officer of Lead-On, a Ballarat organisation dedicated to engaging the city’s youth, said young people may seem happy and healthy, but were often stressed by issues like body image, bullying and even school studies. “A lot of issues impact on young people,” she said.
While Ms Coltman said she was not shocked by the findings of the survey, she stressed she paid little attention to statistics, adding that “not everything is black and white”.
“It takes a community approach to raise a child and I believe the Ballarat community is doing just that.”