Central Victoria's rural youth up against it, report shows

A LACK of anonymity and limited access to transport are compounding many of the issues affecting our young people, according to a new state government report.

The latest State of Victoria’s Children report shows rural young people are at greater risk of hardship then their city cousins.

The report shows sexually transmissible infections are more common in rural areas, teenagers in rural Victoria are more likely than their city peers to report drinking alcohol and binge drinking, and it can be harder for people living in rural areas to access help for mental health issues.

Young people in regional Victoria may also be experiencing financial hardship – Loddon Mallee has one of rural Victoria’s lowest median family incomes.

Bendigo Community Health Services CEO Kim Sykes this week spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser about the report and said it was clear there was work to be done.

“This report is helpful in highlighting some of those areas and also in providing some measures in which we can determine where the strategies have been successful,” she said.

“But it’s important that while we focus on these things of concern in order to inform where we’ve got to put particular energy, we should also note that the vast majority of our young people are doing very well.

“Now the vast majority are engaged at school, the vast majority are either at school or working. 

“While a quarter are binge drinking, and that is of concern, we should remember that three-quarters aren’t and maybe we can learn from them.

“We should be asking the question, ‘What’s caused them not to make that decision?’ It doesn’t mean that we ignore the negative.

“What the negative should do is help us crystallise our focus where we need to intervene in different ways.”

Ms Sykes said there were some common themes in the report that needed to be addressed.

“One of the things that does come through the report as a theme that applies more generally to regional and rural Victoria is that notion of anonymity and also access,” she said.

“So whether it be around services being available, whether it be about transport issues those things impact on people, particularly young people, getting the things they need.

“For somebody who’s 15 or 16, who’s just becoming sexually active, if you live in a rural community, even if you think your local GP is just fantastic, it may well be very, very difficult to go and talk to them about these things.

“It’s often more difficult for them to take the steps they need to ensure that their sex is safe.

“From whether it be accessing the right kind of health advice from their great GP, who might also see their parents, to purchasing condoms and seeing your school mate on the checkout.”

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