Seven Days: Infrastructure not the only priority for Ballarat

THERE'S two issues which have graced the pages of The Courier in the past 12 months which have highlighted just how challenging social issues are in our community.

One is the extensive prevalence of the drug "ice" in our community.

Recent statistics released by Victoria Police showed a significant increase in drug-related crime - a true indication of this latest insidious incarnation of illicit substance addiction and abuse.

The words of "Elliott" a confessed ice addict were stark:

"I was normal once, now ice has taken everything that was ever normal in my life," he told The Courier.

"Once you're an addict, you're always an addict. It sounds ridiculous, but when you're addicted you need the drug to get you through day-to-day activities when it is actually the drug that ruins your daily life."

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Over a period of months last year, The Courier published a series of stories on another disturbing facet of our society, the epidemic of family violence.

Here's the words of "Jane" who told her story to help create broader awareness of the impact of violence:

"I'm not ashamed nor embarrassed about what happened to me, nor did I ask for it nor deserve it. I feel so incredibly proud I got out of my abusive relationship with the help of so many wonderful organisations in Ballarat. For that I'm indebted to them in a very happy way and I have my family in Melbourne to have nothing to be thankful for. Support is the major key in 'getting out' and without support it's next to impossible.

"This Christmas day my little daughter and I will spend it together just the two of us. We are each others entire family and we make each other happy, love to laugh and have fun and basically do silly stuff.

"To me it doesn't matter how many people are in my family as long as I'm free to be happy 'again' when that finally comes together one day and be loved and no longer suffer the abuse I once did."

Both instances can be views as incredibly sad but also powerful.

Their stories have had an impact in our community but also in the actions of government.

The question remains, however, if that action will result in measures and policy aimed at turning around the lives of all those impact by the broader issues.

Such considerations have been brought into sharp focus through the pitch to the state government in anticipation of this year's election.

In Melbourne we have a debate over which party is aligned to two very different transport infrastructure priorities.

In Ballarat, the city council has put together a package of projects valued at tens of millions of dollars and the Committee for Ballarat will soon present its own platform.

The election cycle so often can swing on the back of a single announcement, which is why infrastructure investments: roads, rail and buildings, become the surefire political staple. The media is often sucked into the process. 

In a sense, such investment provides a framework for growing communities but it does so often to the detriment of policy which can directly impact issues which stunt the development and prosperity of the city.

What impact would $30 million spent on drug education, services for people at risk of family violence or to improve literacy rates in our young people?

As we've spoken about in this space before, there will be intense focus on Ballarat during the next eight months, providing a great opportunity to advocate for investment in our community. Our city however, must talk about investment which goes beyond bricks and mortar.

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