Locals work closely with Iceland’s Planet Youth

Community organisations, school staff, students, health services, local police officers, council and others from the Blue Mountains Local Drug Action Team joined international group Planet Youth in the Blue Mountains in July, to discuss the findings of the second Planet Youth Australia survey on youth wellbeing, lifestyle, and substance use.
Winmalee High School Year 10 students Simona Bustamante-Lopez, Bella Higginbotham, Emma McHardy, Hayley Scanlon and Georgia Campbell

The surveys are a key part of the Planet Youth model, which is an internationally renowned, evidence-based community approach to supporting the wellbeing of young people and reducing their alcohol and other drug use. The model is being piloted in Australia through the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s Local Drug Action Team program.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, who opened the workshop said: “Planet Youth is not a conventional alcohol and drug prevention project. It is a community-driven effort that aims to make our community a better place for our young people – a place where they can grow and thrive, be supported and connected, and where they have every opportunity to live their best lives.

“It is invaluable to have such robust local research, backed by international expertise, at the centre of Planet Youth to guide our action plan.”

Undertaken by local Year 10 students, the survey findings were analysed by the Planet Youth team and presented at the workshop by Planet Youth CEO, Dr Páll Ríkharðsson and Dr Ingibjörg Eva Thorisdottir, Chief Analytics Officer for the Icelandic Centre for Social Research & Analysis. The workshop provided an understanding of the experiences of young people locally, as well as opportunities for action.

This was the second Planet Youth survey conducted in the Blue Mountains.

“Our aim in implementing an Australian version of Planet Youth is to prevent alcohol and other drug harms, by working with communities to boost known protective factors. For example, increasing young people and parent interaction and access to out of school activities,” Alcohol and Drug Foundation CEO, Dr Erin Lalor AM said.

“Prevention is an important part of a comprehensive harm reduction approach to minimise the impact of alcohol and other drugs, particularly among young people.

“Planet Youth shows that long-term investment in community-led prevention leads to significant reductions in alcohol and other drug use.”

Since the introduction of Planet Youth in Iceland in 1998, youth alcohol and other drug use rates have transformed from some of the highest in Europe, to among the lowest. The Planet Youth Model has now been implemented in hundreds of communities in more than 30 countries around the world.

“The recent workshop in the Blue Mountains was held to help create the local agenda for the program and the beginnings of a local action plan,” Mayor Greenhill said. “This work will be ongoing.”

According to Dr Lalor, addressing obstacles and instilling new behaviours among young people and their adult influencers, typically requires a coordinated, ongoing approach. “What is important is continuing to track trends and to use those trends to guide community action, which is exactly what the Blue Mountains Local Drug Action Team is doing,” Dr Lalor added.

The next step for the Planet Youth Blue Mountains community network will now be to share the findings of the research more broadly and support community action that will strengthen the protective factors that exist for our young people.

Planet Youth is a community-led project supported by Blue Mountains City Council, MYST (Mountains Youth Services Team) and a host of other community services organisations, local schools and community members. For more information about Planet Youth go to www.planetyouthbm.net.au and follow PlanetYouthBM on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo: (1) Winmalee High School Year 10 students Simona Bustamante-Lopez, Bella Higginbotham, Emma McHardy, Hayley Scanlon and Georgia Campbell at the Planet Youth Blue Mountains community workshop. (2) Mayor Mark Greenhill with Planet Youth CEO Dr Páll Ríkharðsson and Head of Evidence and Innovation ADF Craig Martin at the Planet Youth Blue Mountains community workshop.

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