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Wallan youths’ plea for more services

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Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis has worked as a journalist at the North Central Review since 2022, with a particular focus on the City of Whittlesea and stories for the Whittlesea Review. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Communications majoring in journalism and focuses on politics, community, and health with the occasional niche sports story finding its way in front of her.

By Grace Frost and Pam Kiriakidis

WALLAN Secondary College’s student leadership team has called for Mitchell Shire Council to allocate greater attention and resources toward Wallan’s youth.

The school’s prefects, Nayush Yerriah and Ivy Foster, and captains Jayde Waddell, Alexis McGuane and Wil Rice, said other than sporting clubs, Wallan offered minimal activities and social settings for young people to enjoy.

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“There’s not much to go to unless you want to go to Wellington Square and sit around there all day … [or] it’s just Maccas,” Wil said.

Accessibility

With the closest cinemas, shopping precincts and public pools located at other towns or suburbs, the school captains said finding activities to do with friends was difficult without licences.

The captains said unreliable and infrequent transport made allocating time for socialising difficult amid their VCE studies.

“We may as well go to the city if we’re going to spend this much time [travelling] anyway,” Wil said.

“It’s insane when you really think about it – there should be buses going from Wallan to Craigieburn way, and Craigieburn to Wallan. If they did that, the trains would be less packed and [the buses could be more regular].”

The leaders said they had dropped hobbies they otherwise would have pursued due to the travel to other towns.

The leaders said they had dropped hobbies they otherwise would have pursued, including music lessons, due to the travel to other towns.

The group also raised access to the town centre and school as being an issue – as there were no footpaths from Wallara Waters.

“Someone tried to play chicken with me because I was walking on the road. They literally tried to hit me with their car because they wanted me to go onto the grass,” Ivy said.

Sport and ‘not much else’

The captains and prefects said Wallan’s sports programs proved a great outlet for many of their peers who could commit multiple days a week to out-of-school activities.

But they said the cost of uniforms and memberships deterred many students from signing up, highlighting the need for free and accessible activities.

“Because we’re in such a low demographic, we’re really below the threshold of income around here, [and] we have some dual-income households that are barely scraping by,” Ivy said.

The captains said the lack of entertainment left many with few alternatives but to crowd at local fast-food franchises.

“If you were to find the same teenagers in the inner city or whatever, they would have more stuff to do and activities to go to. [Here they are] instead finding themselves wanting to hang out of home … so they go to Maccas and cause amok,” Wil said.

“You’d imagine if there was other stuff to do, they’d do it.”

Council’s response

Mitchell Shire chief executive Brett Luxford said Mitchell Youth Services worked with people aged 12 to 24 years to promote the wellbeing of youth across the shire.

“Mitchell Shire is one of the fastest growing local government areas and we understand there is a lot of work to be done to provide for that growth,” he said.

“We need continued support from the Victorian Government to make the education and sports facilities, transport links and commercial precincts a reality for young people now and in the future.”

Council listed a range of programs available to youth across the shire including after-school program UKREW, supervised Mitchell Youth Rooms, music and art program VOLUME, annual event Youth Fest, with more available on its website.

Council has also recently sworn in a new youth council.

But Wallan Secondary College leaders said council’s strategies failed to target the needs of their demographic adequately.

The prefects and captains dreamed of a shopping centre in town with a cinema, food court and activities that were offered to youth in neighbouring municipalities.

The students said a ‘more realistic’ safe destination for youth, other than McDonald’s, was needed for young people to meet up with friends.

“We just need somewhere else to go – to physically hang out and do something,” Wil said.

More information on council services can be found at www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au.

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