Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, right, addresses the public meeting while youth centre co-ordinator Peter Van Lissum, left, Nicole
Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, right, addresses the public meeting while youth centre co-ordinator Peter Van Lissum, left, Nicole

60 steer a course to youth centre

By JULIA ILES

julia.iles@dailyexaminer.com.au

A PLETHORA of topics were debated at Monday night's youth centre meeting in Grafton, which established a steering committee to make the centre a reality. Centre visionary, 19-year-old Peter Van Lissum, spoke to around 60 people about the lack of positive youth activities in Grafton.

"I was sick of everyone whingeing and complaining about youth ? there are 27 clubs and pubs here and one skate park, there is nothing for them (youth) to do apart from getting drunk," Mr Van Lissum said.

At the heart of deliberations was a fear that if this generation was lost, it would be difficult to reach following generations.

"The biggest complaint we have is about youth-related crime ... they need leadership," Detective Chief Inspector Jason Breton said. "I watched the ARIA awards the other night, and I am only 40, but I didn't know any of the bands. We live in a different world from the youth."

Chief Insp Breton, who is the crime manager of the Coffs-Clarence region, said the biggest challenge was to overcome the separation of the Clarence River to unite the youth of Grafton and South Grafton.

"People in South Grafton are just as important and buses are the simplest way to take them to places," he said.

Clarence Valley Community Programs (CVCP) worker Nicole Secombe proposed a venue for the centre in the former Pullen's produce building on Prince Street.

"It has been designated by the organisation as a youth space," she said.

"At the moment young people come and hang out at the office and sit on the computer playing really boring computer games and they do it because they say it's safe."

High school student Emma Stockton suggested a range of ideas including movie and cooking nights, self defence classes, boxing, a 24-hour cafe, a battle of the bands competition and open mic (microphone) nights.

Links for Learning coordinator Colleen Kennedy suggested that the new Clarence Valley youth magazine could be used to promote the proposed centre.

"The magazine could drive the new centre along," she said.

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, who chaired the meeting, said it was important that the centre was built up slowly ? a stage at a time ? and that people should not expect to start with 'a $7million complex'.

Concerns explored during the meeting were the lack of public transport for young people, Grafton's low socio-economic status dictating the need for activities to be low cost, and the divide between South Grafton and Grafton.

Retired social worker and community services section officer from TAFE, Jodie Johnson, suggested that previous centres had failed due to adult directives.

"It needs to involve all sections of the community such as the council and the police, with it owned by the community but driven by youth," she said.



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