Nightlife not only part of youth plan

Cr Eric Kerr is keen to implement a youth strategy for the city. Picture: BEN EYLES
Cr Eric Kerr is keen to implement a youth strategy for the city. Picture: BEN EYLES

WODONGA Council’s youth strategy should include more than meeting requests for entertainment and nightlife, according to councillors.

The council undertook an eight-month consultation period last year for the strategy, receiving contributions from almost one in 10 of Wodonga’s 8900 young people aged nine to 24.

They were asked what improvements they wanted to see in the city and what direction the strategy should take.

Councillors this week voted for a further 28-day public consultation period for the strategy.

Its aims include helping youth to be healthy, safe, happy and connected and to have opportunities to learn, develop, work and contribute to the community.

The city’s youngest councillor, Eric Kerr, 20, told the meeting those young people who had offered their opinions had asked for more shopping and entertainment.

“It’s one of the challenges living in a regional area, keeping the young people entertained, and that’s something I’d like to work towards,” he said.

Cr Kerr said another priority was “getting rid of the ghost town that is Wodonga of a night time”.

Cr Mark Byatt said young people had also noted a “lack of sport”.

“One of the most significant opportunities in supporting and developing our youth, whatever age demographic, is surely the vehicle of sport and recreation,” he said.

Cr Byatt said he was sure parents would agree.

Cr Michael Fraser agreed the strategy should go further than ensuring young people were entertained at night.

“(It should) see that our youth are adding value, believe they are being valued and, most importantly, see they value themselves and their contributions,” he said.

Crs Byatt and Fraser said the council must work with other agencies to avoid duplication and to ensure they were all moving in the same direction.

Cr John Watson hoped the new public consultation period would capture “at risk” youth who may have “slipped past” in the previous period.

Cr Kerr agreed more needed to be done to fill service gaps for young people.

He said public transport, improved public safety and job creation were also important to youth.

“Recently we’ve heard youth unemployment in North East Victoria is one of the highest in Australia,” he said.

“I know quite a few young people finding it hard to find work and meaningful work at that.”

But Crs Kerr and Byatt said it was hard to identify the extent of council’s responsibility for job creation.

Cr Anna Speedie said Wodonga was “very fortunate”, because although it had a high rate of youth unemployment, it wasn’t in the realms of Spain where up to 75 per cent of people under 25 couldn’t find work.