1 March 2021

Yass youth hub opening is 'a step in the right direction'

| Hannah Sparks
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Group of young people hanging out at night.

Youth advocates in Yass say there are not enough safe places for local young people in crisis. Photo: Papaioannou Kostas.

A youth hub in Yass that provides young people with a safe space to hang out with qualified youth workers, counsellors and friends for a couple of hours is “a step in the right direction”, according to a local councillor and mum.

The Hangout will be open to 12-to-17-year-olds and operate at Zac’s Place, a community building on the town’s main street, between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm, one Thursday a month until June as part of a pilot.

The first gathering took place on Thursday, 25 February, with a barbecue and music.

“There is a need in the Yass Valley for a safe space for kids and youth in crisis,” says councillor Jasmin Jones, from Yass Valley Council.

The initiative came about from a youth survey that found young people in the area desperately want a safe place to hang out with friends, with food and drink.

It’s being driven by the Yass Child, Youth and Family Interagency Group, which represents several agency partners including Ginninderry, Headspace, Yass Valley Council, Anglicare, Capital Region Community Services and Zac’s Place.

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Emma Sckrabei from Ginninderry says there is currently nothing else like this in Yass, and that the pilot should show whether or not The Hangout is what young people need.

“We really want this to be useful for young people,” she says. “So we’re hoping enough young people come along to the pilot so we can gain more feedback about what they want.”

The Hangout is currently funded by Ginninderry so its success also relies on agency partners securing future funding from the NSW Government, says Emma.

“Zac’s Place is donating the space, but we still have to pay for the youth workers, counsellors, activities, food and drink,” she says.

Acting inspector and officer in charge at Yass Police Station, David Cowell, says local officers will also be at The Hangout events at Zac’s Place.

“It is very important that young people have somewhere to go and something to do,” he says. “It is also very important for the police to engage with young people in the community so they get to know us and feel comfortable about approaching us if needed.”

However, councillor Jones says there is still a need for an overnight facility for young people in the Yass Valley who are experiencing a crisis at home.

“We need longer hours and more than just a Thursday,” she says.

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Councillor Jones has been advocating for a 24-hour youth refuge with six beds – three for males and three for females – in Yass for several years.

She says young people in crisis are currently taken to overnight accommodation in Goulburn, Moruya or Batemans Bay because nothing exists locally.

“It’s too far away so they refuse care and spend the night on couches with friends or relatives,” says councillor Jones. “They’re also not on their best behaviour because they’re dealing with a crisis so they need health care or mental health care, and the families taking them in aren’t set up to provide all that.”

The young mother has seen the situation firsthand and heard from the local high school principal about the increasing number of children who are sleeping at other people’s houses to escape unsafe homes.

“An example might be the daughter of a single mother who has left one partner and moved in with another,” she says. “The mother might be using drugs or alcohol, and when she goes to work, her daughter is left in a house with people she doesn’t know. So she leaves and ends up couch surfing.”

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