Equality, openness goal for youth council

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Newly appointed members of the Central Otago Youth Council met last week for a formal board meeting and workshop on positive sexuality.

Being part of something that was going to make a change within the youth community was a goal for chairwoman Emily Downey.

“To me, personally, I think a huge issue is equality within our community and more openness,” she said.

“If you are transgender, or gay or bisexual, it’s not very openly talked about, especially in a small community.

“I think for a lot of people it might be hard to be who they are if it’s not common, so for me it’s a big issue to make those people more accepted in this community and make them feel more comfortable about who they are,” she said.

Drugs and alcohol were huge issues in the youth community, with people as young as 13 and 14 starting to drink, Miss Downey said.

“There’s a huge drinking problem and it’s starting to occur with people who are a lot younger than me.”

Reckless driving was another issue to discuss. People often broke the terms of their licence, including taking passengers, Miss Downey said.

“We are not quite capable of managing the risks on the road, and paying attention to somebody else in the car, so I think reckless driving is another big issue in our community.”

Being a young person herself made it easier to communicate with other youth, Miss Downey said.

“If another student is saying it to them, or people around the same age, they tend to listen to that more, because they often find adults are telling them off or judging them.”

Some of the activities coming up for the members would be council meetings and workshops, and Miss Downey hoped the group would be able to run some events and make some new initiatives that would help others.

“Often, teenagers are confused about things that are going on and we don’t get told the full information, so I thought that this would be a good way to communicate between adults openly.”