Safe Spaces for Youth is the focus of this year’s United Nations International Youth Day that is celebrated on Sunday, August 12.
Mission Australia reports that “1 in 10 young people feel like they do not feel safe or belong in their communities.” As a community we have a responsibility to support young people by providing spaces where they can feel safe to express themselves, engage in healthy and fun activities and connect with positive role models.
There are many factors that can leave youth feeling vulnerable and alone including issues of homelessness, bullying, and domestic violence. Creating safe inclusive spaces for young people is an opportunity to positively affect their overall wellbeing.
The availability of safe spaces in the community also helps to reduce negative peer engagement by providing positive role models. As a local church we have seen this in practice through our partnership with the local police:
Our local area command reached out to us to create a safe space outside the local shopping centre after school, there had been increasing incidents of petty theft and damage created by groups of young people in the area. As a part of a community response, including the local council, we provided a free BBQ at the bus interchange after school each week. Our volunteers provided those positive role models and created a safe space for young people to hang out without getting into trouble. There has also been a chance to connect some of them with other services as required.
As a local church community response to the issue of vulnerable youth in our community, we are focusing on the four pillars of positive youth development, one of which is connectedness. Safe Spaces are one of the key activities within that pillar, they look different in every location and every community but our ultimate aim is to help build resilient and connected young people who are able to flourish in life.
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