Cautious police curb Yamba effort


POLICE called off a free barbecue set down for Turners Beach in Yamba at the weekend, over fears the event would get out of hand.

Up to 300 young people had been expected to attend the barbecue, being staged by two local men as a means of keeping kids out of trouble.

A week ago more than 150 teenagers took advantage of barbecues set up at Pippie Beach .

One of the men, former Victorian air/sea ambulance officer Des Flatley, said he had been heartened by the response of young people to their efforts.

"The first night (Friday) we had 58 teenagers come along. On the Saturday around 120 showed up."

Mr Flatley and his friend, a drug and alcohol counsellor who does not wish to be named, paid for sausages, potatoes and eggs and cooked them on a home barbecue.

"We're not kidding ourselves that we can stop them having a drink. But at least they will doing it with food in their stomachs," he said.

Mr Flatley said he had been surprised by some things he learned from the young people.

"A lot said they don't want a skatepark for the town," he said.

"They said they needed someone to say they had a future in the community and something in their lives to look forward to."

Mr Flatley said several people told him there had been a noticeable decline in the number of 'dramas' over the weekend.

The efforts of the two men have also attracted the attention of Member for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, who has arranged a meeting tomorrow with the Clarence Valley Council youth co-ordinator and Centrelink.

Mr Flatley said their goal was to establish a group that can help kids learn skills including in drama, finances, video conferencing and other vocational fields.

He pointed to the experience in the Victorian town of Natimuk, near Horsham.

"Two years ago young people in Natimuk were running amok, like here in Yamba," he said. "They gave the kids some video equipment and basic instructions on how to use it. Four months later made a video that won prizes at a short film festival."

He would like young people to form a Youth Council that could advise other local bodies in the area on the needs of young people.

"You've got to convince young people that they are important. That's the key," he said.

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