The problem is bigger than volunteers can handle

PROPER SUPPORT NEEDED: Toby Frost, left, and Steve Montgomery say the plight of Nambucca Heads youth is an emergency that cannot be ignored
PROPER SUPPORT NEEDED: Toby Frost, left, and Steve Montgomery say the plight of Nambucca Heads youth is an emergency that cannot be ignored

While the local community has been generous in their support for the Nambucca Youthie and the projects that have unfolded recently, it seems the seriousness of the problem locally is still not registering where it counts … on the radars of politicians with access to funding.

Last week we saw the chilling statistics showing youth unemployment in the area is the highest in NSW and the second highest nationally.

However yet again the hub is looking at empty coffers, which means it is unable to offer the projects that engage young people, bringing those who are often 'at risk' through the doors to get involved and hooking them into other programs that help keep them safe and can turn their lives around.

The success stories from the Youthie are many, including Toby Frost himself, co-ordinator of the crowd funding platform We Give Two Hoots, launched last year.

"Thanks to the safety net the Youthie offered me some years back, I now have three jobs and a small business and am the father of a three-month old. The support I received and the skills I learnt are what set me up for where I am now … it was invaluable to me," Toby said.

"With Two Hoots we ran projects such as the 'Skills to Pay the Bills' DJ course. The course helped young people understand the business side of things, how to communicate, how to work in the creative arts.

"We have a lot of creative young people - and often they are the ones that fall through the cracks with Centrelink and job centres because they don't fit the moulds. 

"We take a different approach - we build up their confidence by helping them find their passion. That is not the attitude of the agencies."

While a couple of grants from both State and Federal Governments for drug and alcohol programs mean the Youthie's doors won't be closing immediately, it is the fact that there is no paid coordinator, no youth worker(s) and no specialist officers to run projects that is the problem.

"It is crunch time - we have done so much good ground work and the impact of our projects has been positive but now we really need some sort of bigger response," Nambucca Valley Youth Services director Steve Montgomery said.

"I truly don't understand when there is so much evidence, why no real help is forthcoming. The community have done what they can, and we thank them sincerely but without proper funding it is not possible to keep up the momentum that is so badly needed.

"The importance of proper management cannot be underestimated because that is what gives the Youthie its direction, purpose and energy. It can't keep being carried by a band of volunteers."

Incredibly, building awareness continues to be one of the things that is needed most - so tell your friends, share this story  and check out the Two Hoots website … and help if you can, with a donation or ideas.

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