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Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Page: 11349

Mr BYRNE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (4:14 PM) —On Friday last week I had the opportunity to host the Holt Youth Reference Group meeting, which is a forum of 10 young community leaders from a range of schools within the city of Casey in my electorate of Holt. The meeting brought together a number of young people from across the region and gave them the opportunity to discuss the issues and concerns they face in one of Australia’s fastest-growing areas. This is the second youth reference group that I have held this year, and I enjoyed hearing the views of these very talented, bright and enthusiastic young people. Often young people in Holt are not portrayed in a positive light and in particular get tarnished by the attitudes and antics of a young constituent of mine called Corey, who knows how to host a party. However, it is not fair to the majority, and the young people I meet in Holt on a daily basis and at functions are bright, responsible and talented representatives and excellent role models for the region.

At the forum on Friday, I met and discussed issues with 10 very bright and talented people. They were: Nicole Bunko, Rebecca Ellin, Rhys Ford, Patrick Kelly, Natalie Heynesbergh, Stephanie Hutchinson, Kate Mills, Molly Moloney, Alana Sattler and Jade Wylie. There was also a youth programs coordinator named Tracey Montgomery from the City of Casey. In the forum I asked the young people to nominate key issues affecting youth in the region and to discuss the issues and solutions to those problems that they raised. The primary issues that were raised included local youth services and availability, public safety issues on trains and at stations, and alcohol consumption and binge drinking. I wanted to report back to this chamber some of these young Australians’ ideas that were discussed about alcohol consumption and binge drinking and the policy and marketing responses that may assist in a reduction of the level of alcohol consumption in young Australians.

Their ideas included the development of a long-term community-awareness and attitudinal-change campaign similar to Quit, an anti-smoking campaign, to decrease the level of smoking; reducing the access to alcohol of young people by raising awareness through the education of parents, who often buy the drinks, which I found quite mind-blowing; and using confronting examples like pictures of real-life case studies to highlight the health implications associated with binge drinking. Throughout the discussion it became clear that the group wanted a broader preventative program to deal with the alcohol consumption issue. It was recommended that, by allowing young people to have a more inclusive role in their community, easier access to support services and a wide-ranging education and public awareness campaign, there would be a significant change in attitude within the broader community.

In closing, I thank those very talented young people who spoke virtually with one voice at the end. I think we could do well in this chamber to take account of those particular points of view, because those young people are the future of the country. If they are the future of the country, it is in very safe hands.