Youth Week cut, Warwick kids forgotten
WARWICK'S youth have been left out in the cold, with the only event dedicated solely to them axed by Southern Downs Regional Council.
Only a few weeks out from Youth Week, the council announced its decision to withdraw support from the annual event.
The decision has left experts fearful of the message it was sending to already vulnerable young people.
Headspace manager Travis Maguire said Youth Week was one of the only opportunities for engaging youth in the community, and losing it would send a harsh message.
"I think first and foremost Youth Week shows young people the rest of community cares about them,” he said.
"It just puts the focus on that part of the community for once and if you give a cohort something to engage with they feel wanted and appreciated.
"As humans we all want to be wanted and if you have the feeling you are not wanted then it will possibly lead to mental health problems.
Mr Maguire said feeling undervalued or misunderstood could lead youth to turn inwards and become reclusive or become angry and aggressive.
"Social connection is one of the best preventions for mental health issues - it is one of the best things we can offer on top of counselling and therapy,” he said.
"It makes sense to take a ground-up approach to work towards social inclusion for young people, which is why events like youth week are so important.”
But Youth Week was also an opportunity for kids and teens to have a presence in the community and overturn negative stereotypes.
"In past Youth Weeks people saw these young people running around engaging and having a good time,” Mr Maguire said.
SDIEA program co-ordinator Grace Smith said the other organisations involved in running the event could not pull it off on their own.
"Without that youth engagement person from council there to help us out I don't think it will really happen this year,” she said.
"By this time we would usually have posters going out around the community and meetings usually start six months in advance,” she said.
Time-poor, understaffed and strapped for funding, both headspace and SDIEA will struggle to run the event.
"We are all so bust in our own businesses that it is just impossible to get it done,” Ms Smith said.
She said without an official program, there was nothing else for the region's young people.
"What other activities are there for the youth in the area over this period? I don't know of anything going around at the moment.”
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said staffing and departmental changes within the council were behind the decision.
"Our youth development officer resigned last year and it has taken a considerable amount of time to replace that person,” Cr Dobie said.
"We are in the process of putting together what I believe is a better program in the form of a youth advisory group to advise council on what they should be spending money on for the young people in our regions.”