Youth & Children Community
The largest proportion of children in Richmond Valley is in Coraki. This area also has a large Aboriginal population and much of the Aboriginal population is made up of children. Over 200 children are born in the Richmond Valley each year. There has been a decrease of 11% in the number of children being born in the 0 - 4 years age group and an increase of 2.2% in the number of 5 - 9 year olds in the area.
Children in Richmond Valley have lower immunisation rates than children in other local government areas in the region. Coraki in particular has a high number of children born with low birth weights and childhood accidents in this area are slightly worse than other areas in the state.
The percentage of 15 - 29 year olds in the Richmond Valley has seen a decrease from 1991 to 2001, although Richmond Valley Council has on average a larger proportion of young people than other areas within the state. Research undertaken with youth since the Richmond Valley Social Plan 2001 indicates that many young people would like to see more recreational facilities and would use a youth service. In particular youth are interested in sporting and music related recreational activities.
Statistics also indicate that most young people in Richmond Valley will leave school early and teenage pregnancy rates are higher. Young people in Richmond Valley also have higher unemployment rates.
While in the process of formulating social plans for Richmond Valley Council in 2006, the most common type of comment from community members was in relation to youth issues (followed by Aboriginal issues). Many members of the community commented that Richmond Valley was an area that was much more appropriate for aged people than youth. Most people also asked for more recreation activities for youth. Often people related issues of crime to issues of youth when they were consulted, however some people also pointed out that while the community commonly does this it is unfair as most young people are not criminals.
Young people are particularly interested in council offering more recreational activities (like skate parks and swimming pools) some also mentioned problems that they face getting to non-school related transport due to the costs of transport. There is no cinema in Richmond Valley Council area but there is a strong interest from the community for attracting one to the area. Young people also expressed concern about their own and friends risk-taking behaviour (in particular sexual behaviour and drug use at parties).
Consultations with children revealed that they were quite aware of what a Council should do and concerned about environmental issues (such as waste and natural disasters such as bushfires and floods). Children consulted in rural areas were particularly interested in health care services for their older family members. Children also expressed an interest in activities such as swimming and concern that their parents worked too hard. Interestingly a number of children said that one of the things that they did not like about Richmond Valley was road kill.
When adults spoke about the needs of children they often mentioned safety issues and the need for bike-ways and footpaths. Many also mentioned the need for better playground equipment (with more shade) in Richmond Valley and mentioned that they take their children out of the area to access such facilities. Comments were made by community members in relation to the high costs that parents now experience to place children in sporting events or social events (mostly due to insurance costs). Many people expressed a concern that the most needy of children would miss out due to the costs involved.
Schools often expressed concern about the limited services for ever increasing numbers of children with learning and behavioural difficulties and also problems with getting some children to school or getting assistance for after school care due to transport constraints. A number of community members also mentioned their concerns about some children's experiences of parenting in Richmond Valley and many older people expressed their belief that discipline was no longer possible with children as a result of the law.
Some of the more commonly requested strategies in relation to children include:
- Action taken to improve parks playground facilities and increase shade (investigating the possibility of less but better parks)
- The need to reopen a baby change centre in Casino
- The improvement of cycle-ways
- The need for council to investigate and perhaps provide child care facilities in Evans Head
- Finalisation of the skate park in Evans Head
- Working in partnership with other organisations to start a youth centre in Casino
- Assist youth to feel ownership of space by developing youth art projects to be displayed on infrastructure around town
- Work on projects to address youth risk taking behaviour / partying behaviour
- Work on improving relationships between Goori and non-Goori youth in Casino
ServicesThere are three high schools in the Richmond Valley LGA and a number of junior sporting organisations. There is a "connecting youth to health" part time worker in Evans Head and a part time youth worker in Casino. Other than this the only services that are available to young people are services which are also available to other groups (for example community health services).
Most of the services relating to children's facilities in the Richmond Valley are offered through the 17 schools (many of which are small rural schools) or through child care centres. There are some intensive based services set up to offer respite and early intervention services across the area and many of these (but not all) are focused on the Aboriginal community. Health services for youth and children are somewhat lacking with many needed and identified positions not being filled.