REGIONAL centres, including Bathurst, have high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse amongst young people.
Lack of opportunities, lack of engagement with the community as well as low self esteem and peer pressure are all contributing factors.
A new Bathurst program, Smashed Arts, aims to circumvent the negative choices of young people by providing inspiration and opportunity to express themselves as well as entertainment options that don’t include drinking.
Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre’s Local Stages Program secured a $495,000 grant from the Federal Department of Health and Ageing for the two-year Smashed Arts program, which began in July.
“Smashed Arts subtly shows young people there are alternatives to binge drinking and it provides an environment which allows facilitators and participants to work together interactively rather than having messages forced on them,” Bathurst mayor Greg Westman said.
The program began during the July school holidays with free workshops for young people in dance, circus, beat boxing and film making. Building on BMEC’s existing Aboriginal Performing Arts Program, these first workshops targeted young Aboriginal people through three days of activity at Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre.
Having identified that lack of confidence and self esteem can be factors in young people’s drinking choices, the workshops focussed on having fun and developing confidence through performance. Activities such as acrobatics and aerial circus skills catered to the young people’s natural desire for risk and adrenalin.
Smashed Arts co-ordinator Peta Johnston said the holiday program gave participants the opportunity to learn new skills in a really positive environment.
"One of the best things to come out of the workshops has been seeing the confidence grow in the kids," she said.
"We are really pushing the 'no shame' angle in their performances so they get up and put everything into their performances. It's been really successful so far and we have had great support.”
Over the next two years, Smashed Arts will provide more drug and alcohol-free workshops for local young people aged between 12 to 24 years. It will also offer increased access to drug and alcohol free entertainment from music events through to fashion parades. A performance troupe made up of young locals, the Smashed Rovers, is currently in rehearsals and will deliver comic performances in pubs and at nighttime events to light heartedly challenge some of the choices of young people.
For regional areas, the abuse of drugs and alcohol by young people are significant and complex issues. The 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that one in five people aged 14 years or older consumed alcohol at a level that put them at risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over their lifetime. It also confirmed that those aged between 18-29 years were more likely than any other age group to consume alcohol in quantities that placed them at risk of an alcohol-related injury, and of alcohol-related harm over their lifetime.
Along with BMEC’s Local Stages program, the Bathurst Police, the PCYC, Headspace, Kelso Community Centre, Arts OutWest, Bathurst Theatre Company and the Western NSW Local Health District are all partners in the innovative program.