Wodonga launches Building Brighter Futures 3690 to secure youth project in state election.
A Wodonga schools and services-led partnership is calling on the Victoria government to urgently invest $800,000 a year to stem the escalating youth homelessness and mental health crisis.
The community collaboration wants to see the highly successful Albury Project replicated “across the river” to ensure at-risk youth receive the early intervention supports they need to stay connected to education, employment and vital social networks.
Wodonga Project leader Rachel Habgood said it was time to “amplify our local voices” to demand better outcomes for young people during the launch of ‘Building Brighter Futures 3690’ at Wodonga Senior Secondary College yesterday.
Over-stretched support services and schools on the front-line of the crisis are “drowning”, the college’s assistant principal Matt Moylan said during the launch.
“We are an education institution … but it’s becoming (more) about keeping a young person alive,” he stated.
My Moylan said as the largest government secondary school in the area (with four campuses and 2000 students), it was clear there was a serious increase in wellbeing issues among local youth.
The number of ‘serious incidents’ reported to the education department is traditionally 100 a year, he said.
“This year there are at least 200 already and the severity is getting worse – they include suicide attempts presenting to hospital and several disclosures every week of sexual assault of our vulnerable students,” he revealed. Mr Moylan said early intervention was critical to ensuring young people could be in a space where they were able to learn – and ultimately thrive.
The 12-strong local partnership model brings together schools, health, mental health, housing, family violence, council and other services with the aim to identify and act early to help at-risk youth.
“Why do we wait for young people to be homeless, to have an acute mental health episode or to fully disengage from school?” Ms Habgood asked.
Projects at Albury and Geelong have seen a 40 per cent reduction in homelessness and significant reduction in the number of young people leaving school early.
Speaking via a zoom link-up at the launch, Associate Professor David Mackenzie – considered by many to be the architect of the original Geelong Project – said he was positive Wodonga’s bid would be successful.
“We have a shared discontent that that the system is not working well enough for young people and their families,” he said.
“There has to be a better way … from the crisis orientation of our services and systems.
“You are so shovel ready, the community is behind this and the government needs to put you at the top of the list.”
The wider community is being asked to add its voice to calls for the government to fund the Wodonga Project in its 2023 budget.
Residents are invited to sign the online petition (www.brighterfutures3690.org) to “change the trajectory of young people in our region”.