By Kirra Grimes
BASS Coast youth are calling on Council to put their money where their mouth is and deliver real outcomes through their new ‘Living Young Plan’.
The promise of the four-year plan, currently being developed with community consultation, is to empower and connect young people and their families, by improving access to the services and facilities they need, and giving them a strong voice in the community.
Local secondary school students have plenty of ideas as to how this could be achieved, and they want to see these ideas turned into action.
When it comes to facilities and services, Wonthaggi Secondary College students Bella and Emily, and Newhaven College student Rory, don’t want any more parks – “there’s plenty of parks” already, they say – but they do want more places to hang out after school and on weekends, preferably with free Wi-Fi or entertainment, such as arcade games.
More street art murals “everywhere,” more frequent film screenings at the cinema, and more youth friendly events, such as street festivals and battle of the bands, are also on the wish list, as are better transport links between Wonthaggi and smaller towns.
“There’s no buses on the weekend,” said 13-year-old Emily, who lives in Cape Paterson. “It’s hard to get to Wonthaggi on the weekends but that’s where all my friends are, and there’s more to do.”
The three youths felt that most career and higher education opportunities were “out of [their] range” and that it was a fact of life that “people have to move to Melbourne to go to uni”.
Bella and Emily said their current schooling would be improved by upgrading Wonthaggi Secondary College’s junior Dudley campus, which they described as “very old” and “falling apart” and not the sort of environment that makes kids want to go to school.
When asked about the future of the McBride campus, they said they’d rather see it turned into a drop-in centre for “people that are struggling” than another arts centre.
“Give homeless kids and people on the streets somewhere to go, with rooms to stay in, food and drinks,” said Bella.
They’d “never heard of” council supported facilities like the YES Youth Hub or Youth Assist clinics and didn’t know how to approach council to raise an issue of concern.
Appearances at school assemblies and more targeted communication via social media, especially YouTube, could help increase awareness of services and opportunities available to youth, who were unlikely to look up information on a council website or read a newsletter, the group said.
But how optimistic are they that Council will take on board input from young people like them? That’s summed up in Rory’s comment that “no one takes kids seriously”.
“They’ll just end up doing what the adults want,” he said.
They were sceptical about the capacity of whatever does make it into the plan to make a meaningful difference in their lives.
“You hear about councils doing all these great things, but you don’t see the results,” Rory said.
The Bass Coast Living Young Plan 2020-2024 – ‘A Better Bass Coast for Children, Youth and Families’ replaces Council’s existing Municipal Early Years Plan and Youth Action Plan.
The Youth Action Plan (2016-2020) resulted in things like condom vending machines being installed across the shire, Council-run White Ribbon Day and National Youth Week events, awareness raising campaigns and activities around issues such as alcohol and bullying, and youth leadership and road safety programs.
It also included advocating to state government for increased local service provision around alcohol and other drugs, mental health and sexual health, and “supported the implementation of” other local and regional strategies and plans focused on recreation, arts and culture, education, affordable housing, prevention of men’s violence against women, and public health and wellbeing.
If you’d like to contribute to the new Living Young Plan, you can fill in a survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/BassCoastLivingYoung.