A local businessman who has announced he will run for council has described punitive efforts to protect mall traders from troublesome youth as a “band-aid fix” which won’t work.
Instead, self-employed IT specialist Vaughan Williams applauded the efforts of a group of young skaters who are currently fighting to keep the indoor skate ramps they built in an abandoned, government-owned building in Golden Square.
“These kids went out of their way to build something for themselves,” the Lockwood Ward candidate said.
“That shows they’ve got initiative, they’ve got brains, they’ve got willpower and they’ve got gumption – they wanted something better and that's what we should be pushing for too.”
In May this year police cracked down on unruly young people in the Hargreaves Mall following an escalation in antisocial behaviour.
But Mr Williams said more cops and cameras would not address causes of youth delinquency.
“We need to get to the root of the problem – there’s just not the areas in Bendigo for youth to use and to be themselves,” he said.
“I know what we were like when I was growing up, and back then we had three or four places where we could hang and be ourselves and not annoy businesses.
“People keep putting the youth in Bendigo down, but what are we doing to help them grow into the people we want to be?
“Will they be future leaders of this town or just another lost opportunity?”
After returning to Bendigo to raise his daughter a decade ago, Mr Williams said he was surprised by the opportunities the city in which he grew had missed.
“I was away for nearly 20 years and when I came back it was kind of like stepping back in time,” he said.
“I was hoping there would be a bigger IT industry – but it seems the place was stuck in time warp.
“We’re not using enough of the technology we need to support existing businesses and to entice new business.
We’re an hour-an-a-half from Melbourne, the rent’s cheaper, there’s space – we should have some head offices here.”