TWEED YOUTH ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG SERVICES
Mr GEOFF PROVEST
(Tweed) [6.16 p.m.]: Once again I inform the House of issues in the Tweed. Last Thursday I launched "Building New Ways—A needs analysis for youth alcohol and other drug services in the Tweed shire". The Tweed Shire Council, at the request of the Tweed Youth Alcohol and Other Drugs Working Party, commissioned a needs analysis to examine the service needs of young people under the age of 18 with respect to alcohol and other drug use. It identified a number of issues and revealed some alarming statistics. Of those surveyed, 64.8 per cent of females have used alcohol compared to 56.6 per cent of males and 20.1 per cent females, compared with 17.9 per cent of males, have used illicit drugs. Even more disturbing, 43.2 per cent of females who had used alcohol reported their first use between 13 and 14 years of age, and 31.6 per cent of males reported their first use between 15 and 16 years of age. Further, 10 per cent of the males who had ever used alcohol reported their first use at 10 years of age.
The alarming statistics on illicit drug use show that 44.3 per cent of females and 26.7 per cent of males who had ever used drugs reported their first use between the ages of 15 and 16. Further, 95.6 per cent of participants who do not attend school regularly were reported to have used alcohol and 76.5 per cent have used illicit drugs. That disturbing statistic means that people not attending school are involved in those activities. Limited access to public transport adds to the need for youth services and spaces to be made available in all communities. The working party made six recommendations. This report was seen as a platform: for further research into local youth alcohol and other drug use, the associated harms and the available services and programs; to initiate and provide leadership in the process to develop an appropriately staffed youth alcohol and other drugs facility with outreach services; and to provide advocacy on a range of issues that have the potential to affect youth alcohol and other drug use and associated harms.
The report clearly shows that a multiple of factors contribute to the misuse of alcohol and other drugs by young people and therefore there is no quick fix or one answer. We need a range of short-term and long-term options that range from education, to early intervention and to treatment. Therefore, the responsibility does not sit in one department or organisation. We require all departments, local, State and Federal governments, as well as communities to work together to find local solutions for local issues. We hope to set the scene for positive action that is inclusive and supportive of young people in the shire as well as driven by a collaborative whole-of-community approach, of which I am a part. Recently I held another forum to handle this issue. We need support to implement the recommendations and commitment for the long haul. This will mean putting aside differences and personal agendas, and working together for the sake of our young people who are the future.
The community has an integral role to play. They are not faceless, nameless young people; they are young people who live in our shire, attend our schools and live next door. Evidence shows that young people who do not feel valued or supported by the community in which they live are more vulnerable and more at risk of using alcohol or other drugs. Support can be through services and facilities not just focusing on the negative but seeing and celebrating the many good things that young people do. More than 30 groups will attend the meeting next week to move this report forward to begin addressing these important issues. I thank Margaret Strong, Tweed Shire Council, Krystian Gruft, Andrew Hamilton, Gerina Appo from St Josephs Youth Service and Julie Watson from the Attorney General's Department. A piece of graffiti encapsulates the experience of adolescence and high school for one young person in the Tweed shire, and provides food for thought in the process of contemplating the need for improved youth alcohol and drug services. It states:
Best friends become bitches. Boyfriends become pricks. Red Bull becomes rum. Lunch orders become drugs. Lollie pops become cigarettes.
We need to invest in the future of our young people in our shire. I met with Father Chris Riley from Youth Off the Streets in Sydney. I will bring further reports to this House. Once again, I am 100 per cent for the Tweed.