Hills youth in trouble: group calls for health worker

ARE our kids in trouble?

Local authorities say yes.

Hills Family Centre manager Renee Acker-Sessions said the number of incidents of adolescence violence against parents in The Hills was rising.

‘‘We know antisocial behaviour occurs because of young people not being able to find an avenue to constructively talk and work through their issues when they are in crisis,’’ Ms Acker-Sessions said.

She went on to list these ‘‘issues’’: family breakdown, homelessness, peer-to-peer relationship problems, challenges finding information on physical and mental wellbeing.

Chez Roney, a community chaplain in The Hills, added hers: eating disorders among girls and boys, drug dealing and drug taking.

‘‘Without dobbing people in, it creates issues around drug dealers not being paid, which leads to violence,’’ Ms Roney said.

‘‘If they [users] can’t pay, they also get used as runners.’’

The Hills crime manager, Detective Inspector Gary Bailey, said their officers were noticing some under-age drinking, ‘‘15 and on’’, in our parks.

‘‘The police will confiscate, they will inform the parents,’’ Detective Inspector Bailey said.

He said while officers were not noticing ‘‘any huge amounts of antisocial behaviour’’ from our youth, the main places they did misbehave were the bus rank opposite Arthur Whitling Reserve, Castle Hill, and Balcombe Heights Estate in Baulkham Hills, ‘‘especially of a Thursday night’’.

Click here to read what local commuters said about the behaviour of young people at this bus rank.

Detective Inspector Bailey said officers patrolled all of the shopping centres in the Hills local area command patrol every day, but ramped up patrols on Thursday nights.

About 15 per cent of The Hills population is aged 10 to 19.

So it was of concern, Ms Acker-Sessions said, that The Hills does not have a dedicated youth health worker or any services working directly with young people and their families to ease their ‘‘issues’’.

This surprised her, given it’s ‘‘the fastest-growing population of youth in NSW’’.

She said it was up to existing youth services to be proactive and bring their services into the area.

Last Thursday her service brought a partial solution to the problem into Rouse Hill Town Centre.

‘‘The aim of the Streetsmart outreach bus is to provide youth with information around their issues and make information available for parents about services that can assist them to better support their children,’’ Ms Acker-Sessions said.

The launch included DJs, live music and dancing, a photo booth, gladiator ring, bungee run, sausage sizzle and fairy floss.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the launch.

The bus will be at Rouse Hill Town Centre (opposite the bus interchange) every Thursday, 3pm-8pm, providing kids aged 12-18 with activities, a sausage sizzle, refreshments — and support, if they need it.

This may be from a youth worker, or other local youth services, such as 2realise, Castle Hill police, Rouse Hill Town Centre businesses, GPT, High Street Youth Health Service, headspace (National Youth Mental Health Foundation), Hills Community Aid, or Rivergum Community Care.

‘‘The resourcing we have allows us to be out one day a week,’’ Ms Acker-Sessions said.

But it was an uphill battle to get even that.

‘‘We had funding to work with young people up to five years ago but that funding was cut,’’ Ms Acker-Sessions said with reference to the fierce lobbying they have had to do for this, in her opinion, much-needed money.

She said the location of the bus was chosen because of its accessibility by public transport.

‘‘We are funded for people in The Hills but the reality is young people also come across from Blacktown, Riverstone, Schofields,’’ she said.

Ms Roney welcomed the news.

Last June, she made an impassioned plea to The Hills councillors to re-open a youth centre in Castle Hill for similar reasons.

She wanted it be in the Castle Grand, near the bus depot Detective Inspector Bailey mentioned.

‘‘My action plan also included programs for young people, including Glambition which teaches young girls about body image,’’ Ms Roney, the club advisor of the Hills Leos (a Lions youth service club), said.

She’s always questioned why there are no non-denominational youth services in The Hills.

There is a Dural service run by the Baptist Church and Hillsong runs a Castle Hill service.

A council spokeswoman said its youth centre in Castle Hill closed because of a decline in attendance.

■ A joint venture between Wesley Mission and Castle Hill Uniting Church, Hills Family Centre also offers family support and community development for families with children aged 0 to 12, as well as financial counselling. Details: wesleymission.org.au/Centres/Family/Hills.asp

■ Are you concerned for the welfare of our youth?

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