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YOUTH AND PARENTS ‘HAVE THEIR SAY’ ABOUT ALCOHOL

YOUTH AND PARENTS ‘HAVE THEIR SAY’ ABOUT ALCOHOL

22 October 2012

Jewish Community Council of Victoria & Maccabi Victoria

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and Maccabi Victoria successfully joined forces last month to organise the “Youth and Alcohol, Your Say!” Forum.  Over 130 students and parents gathered at the Glen Eira Town Hall for the Forum. Students and parents alike were invited to ‘have their say’ about the issue of alcohol misuse in the Jewish community as an extension of the JCCV’s Youth Alcohol Project (YAP) educational arm.

MC David Opat skilfully directed the audience through a series of scenarios based on the fictitious Cohen family. The Cohen family have three teenagers of various ages, social interests and exposure to alcohol. Participants were placed into small groups to discuss in detail aspects of the scenario, and  into separate youth and parent group to ensure they could express themselves freely and comfortably. Maccabi Youth Leaders expertly focussed the groups to develop a number of practical strategies that the Cohen family parents and children could employ.

The highlight of the night was the presentation of the group’s results and the open discussion on the issues that unfolded between youth, parents and a guest panel of experts.

Youth spoke openly about the peer pressure they regularly experience to drink and be drunk and the poor role models they see in the media especially sports stars. An important feature arising from the youth present was their insight into their parent’s general lack of supervision and appropriate alcohol related role modelling.  A youth described “if you give your child a drink and parents drink too, then how can you not expect us not to drink more and get drunk.”  A youth participant stated “it (alcohol) is just all around us; wherever we are it is playing an important role in our lives.” Another youth also explained how the current music scene also plays a role influencing youth to drink in the lyrics of many songs today. To a solid round of applause a youth clearly stated “it is a shame to have a good time, kids today think you have to have alcohol, it’s just not necessary to take alcohol or drugs!”

Parents expressed their frustration with the lack of education and support for them as parents who want to know how to monitor their children’s social and drinking activities. Parents expressed despair at the increasing use of the social media by youth and considered it as a major factor for their inability to monitor youth’s alcohol related behaviour. Parents expressed their desire for more control and rules involving the party scene. A parent’s suggested strategy was strong and clear, stating that if her child was planning an under age party at their home, “there was to be no alcohol, or no party, end of story!”

The Guest Panel of Speakers included Dr Danny Ben-Eli Emergency Physician, Gary Blieden Captain of the Ajax Senior Football team, Hayley Blieden Nutritionist, Danny Elbaum Operations Manager of Hatzolah, Michelle Kornberg Family Counsellor and David Michelson a security expert. The Guest Panel contributed to the discussions with their knowledge and experience in the field.  The Guest Panel also offered practical advice and tips for both parents and youth. Dr Ben Eli’s recount of a young Jewish youth that he recently treated for severe alcohol poisoning that nearly cost him his life was poignant. He had to inform the youth’s mother of the physical long term serious consequences of her child’s actions and binge drinking. She was totally unaware of the extent of her son’s regular alcohol consumption. Hayley Blieden explained the physical consequences of alcohol in particular for youth that play regular sport, “when you drink alcohol the body reacts, it has to absorb the alcohol right through the body and your brain, even up to a few a days later. If you plan to play sport the next day, your body will be slower and your performance will be definitely negatively affected.”

Jacquie Lerner, Events and Volunteers Manager Maccabi Victoria said “that it was really special and encouraging to see community groups working together and pooling resources for a unified vision and goal - the health, safety and wellbeing of our community. A healthy lifestyle that does not involve alcohol was considered important by the youth present at the Forum.” Lerner also stated that “Maccabi Victoria supports and promotes an active and healthy lifestyle for the Jewish Community. It is vital that youth have positive role models at the sporting clubs they attend.”

Nina Bassat, President of the JCCV stated that “It was a Forum which not only involved two organisations working together closely and harmoniously, but which also brought in communal expertise from other organisations. The willingness of all to participate – the Forum Committee, the students, the parents, the panel and MC, was an example of what is best in our community and ensured the success of the function.”

David Southwick’s MP for Caulfield concluding remarks congratulated the youth present at the Forum for participating and for their courage to express themselves publicly. Southwick stated “it is just not what you have done today that is important, but what you do with your tomorrow.”

A Summary Report of the Forum will be distributed to all participants, schools, community groups and JCCV Affiliates for their input and comments. For your copy of the Report, please contact Debbie Zauder, Youth Alcohol Project (YAP) Manager at dzauder@jccv.org.au.

The Forum was kindly sponsored by a Glen Eira Council Community Grant.

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