Clarence youth program needs funds

A YOUTH program that contributes to a reduction in assaults, malicious damage and theft in the Clarence Valley needs money to continue its good work.

Youth workers will now have to revisit the lengthy process of applying for replacement funding.

Police statistics showed a 15 per cent decrease in assaults in the Clarence Valley, up to a 19 per cent decrease in break and enters, and up to 13 per cent decrease in malicious damage in the year after the Street Cruise Program began. Street Cruise organisers believe these figures can largely be attributed to the federally-funded program, which is facilitated by the Grafton New School of Arts.

Street Cruise was introduced as a two-year pilot in the Valley and coordinated a total of 222 community patrols in Grafton and Yamba during its operation.

It provided an access point for health workers to distribute information and organised more than 20 under-18s events, including performance art workshops.

Street Cruise co-ordinator Coleen Kennedy said the withdrawal of funding was typical of how youth development programs were structured.

She said young people up and down the east coast would benefit from a unified program.

“We get something great happening in the area, there’s lots of enthusiasm and then it all changes,” she said.

“It’s very disappointing.”

The reduction in crime was not the only benefit brought about by Street Cruise, Ms Kennedy said.

Clarence Valley Council crime prevention officer, Carolyn Wilkes, said: “The feedback that came to us from young people was that the Street Cruise volunteers were regarded as a trustworthy source of information and that the kids appreciated having a group of adults on the street looking out for them.”

Street Cruise and Clarence Valley Council funding has been pooled in the past two years to provide a program of youth activities in the Valley.

That funding has been reduced significantly on the eve of school holidays, a time when it is most needed.

The New School of Arts is waiting to hear if it was successful in securing funding through the National Binge Drinking initiative after a recent knockback of funding from the Proceeds of Crime program.

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