With one in four teenagers hospitalised, either the culprit or victim of underage alcohol-related incidents in Australia, it’s no surprise that youth drinking is a major problem.
In the Byron Shire alone the effects of alcohol-related crime are on the rise, but thanks to a grant of $250,000 to Byron Youth Services, a new initiative is being set up to combat the trend of teenage binge drinking in Byron Bay.
It’s been a long, hard road for the director of Byron Youth Services, Di Mahoney, and BUDDI (Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative) team leader Nicqui Yazdi, who have been trying for four years to get some money to help address the problem.
“We will be using the money to start a program to help young people identify and learn about the issues of binge drinking,” Ms Yazdi Nicqui said.
“While we can’t stop them drinking, we will give them practical strategies on how to look after themselves.
“We would encourage them to eat before going out, drink water between alcoholic drinks, don’t drive or get into a car where there has been drinking.”
The new program called ‘Project U-Turn’ will also target parents.
“We want to help support parents who struggle with the issue of their children drinking,” Ms Yazdi said.
“It’s tough dealing with teenagers.”
According to Ms Mahoney, research has shown that the first place a teenager has alcohol is often in the home.
“We would encourage parents to delay initiation of alcohol as there are issues around secondary supply to teenagers,” she said.
Another issue that Ms Yazdi cited was the easy availability of alcohol for teenagers in the Byron area.
“While the State average for liquor licences in a local government area is 220, the Byron Shire has 351,” she said.
“The last thing we need in this area is another liquor licence that specialises in cheap alcohol to the public such as a Dan Murphy’s.”
Byron Youth Services provides a safe space, ‘Friday Night @ the YAC’, for teenagers that is alcohol-free.
“Teenagers want to socialise and they need a place where they can do this,” Ms Mahoney said.
“The grant will also go towards making more activities and events available here.”
While most teenagers will experiment at one time or another with alcohol, Ms Mahoney believed the age that this starts is a concern.
“Each generation gets younger and younger,” Ms Mahoney said.
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