Kadina slowly begins to heal

Kyogle Youth Ventures allows young kids to take risks in an appropriate setting and have fun, while putting them in contact with volunteer youth leaders who act as mentors for them. The program was developed after three teenagers were killed in a car accident in Kyogle in December 2002.

Kadina High School principal Stephen Lowndes said things were back to routine at the school this week.

There wont be normal here for quite some time, he said. But there will be routine.

Tributes to the four students killed in a car crash were taken down from the front of the school this week with the blessing of the families. Mr Lowndes said the families of Corey New, Mitch Eveleigh, Bryce Wells and Paul Morris were first invited to come and retrieve anything they wanted to keep.

The rest of the items were placed in storage and flowers were kept to create confetti to put on the schools memorial garden, commemorating other students who have been killed in accidents.

Meanwhile, Mr Lowndes said it was time to start the healing process. He said it was too early to say what changes or initiatives might come out of the tragedy but chairman of the NSW Parliamentary Stay Safe Committee, Paul Gibson, was expected to visit the school next week as well as hold talks with the families of the four boys.

Kyogle turns teen tragedy around

While Kadina High School is still gripped with grief, over in Kyogle fundraising is in full swing for the fourth end-of-year camp for Kyogle Youth Ventures.

Kyogle Youth Ventures was born out of a community brainstorm following a car accident which killed three local boys in December 2002. The accident claimed the lives of Terre Daniels sons Eamonn, 18, and Jesse, 14, and their friend Levi Ford, 14.

Terres youngest son Ben was just nine at the time. His school work suddenly went down hill and he was constantly in trouble as he struggled to come to terms with his grief.

She said she was continually up at the school trying to explain that this wasnt a boy who didnt want to obey the rules this was grief behaviour.

She said it was a recurring theme that Kyogle kids were acting out after the accident.

Because theyve got this pain inside and they dont know how to express it and live with it, she said. People are thrown into chaos and at that point, nothing matters.

She said last week she was speaking with another mum whose son had only just started to talk about the accident two months ago.

Thats four years later, she said. And shes a switched on mum.

Kyogle High School teacher and Kyogle Youth Ventures co-ordinator Tony Kempnich remembered it as a time of absolute grief which galvanised the town into action.

He said the school set up a memorial, not just to the boys who were killed in the accident, but to any students or ex-students who had died, and that had been part of the grieving process.

Around 300 people also turned up to a public meeting and the ensuing brainstorming session resulted in a whole range of ideas from mentoring programs to laughter clubs to wilderness programs.

People didnt want to see this happen again, he said. There was alcohol involved in the accident and the 16-year-old learner driver survived. For me thats part of the tragedy. Hes been incarcerated and hes copped a lot of negative reaction in town. Thats been really hard for his family.

Tony said Kyogle Youth Ventures was born out of the tragedy and was about creating a sense of community and breaking down barriers between generations.

The program puts together disadvantaged kids with young volunteer leaders aged 16 to 22. There are also adult supporters.

Kyogle Youth Ventures get together for monthly fun-based activities like canoeing, skating and 10-pin bowling. Then theres the end-of-year camp at an outdoor education centre where the kids do co-operative problem solving activities that build up a sense of community.

Its about facing fears and taking risks but in really appropriate ways which are managed safely, said Tony. Its also lots of fun. They just come back buzzing. They are just elated, jumping and laughing, hugging the leaders its just so joyous.

When Terre Daniels picked Ben up after his first camp she said it was like the boy was back.

He was just beaming, she said. He was back involved in his life and he was excited. The camp was a really positive experience for him.

She said he continued to get into trouble at school for the next year and a half until he changed schools and could shake off the problem kid label.

But it was a positive moment in the right direction. I believe he connected back with himself as a worthy person, Terre said. The community was saying you are important and you are okay.

Tony said Kyogle Youth Ventures was truly a great thing for Kyogle.

Its really effective, really positive and really does create that sense of community. he said. If we can support young people through their formative years and they can have a sense of belonging and a strong sense of self then they are less likely to make decisions that are going to damage them and the people who love them.

Kyogle Youth Ventures costs $7000 a year and relies entirely on fundraising. It is currently fundraising for the next end-of-year camp.

Alive and Driving program

The 2002 car accident was also directly responsible for two programs being run out of CTC Kyogle. Funding was obtained for the Alive and Driving program, which trained young people in radio broadcasting to enable them to create radio messages about road safety. A community forum called The Funnnest and Dumbest was also run in conjunction with Triple Js Ronan Sharkey bringing together a panel of well-known local personalities to discuss risk taking, drinking and driving.

The Alive and Driving program is still ongoing and a car has been bought to enable young people on their learner licenses to be matched with responsible volunteer supervisors.

CTC Kyogle manager Linda Woodrow said $15,000 was obtained from the Myer Foundation, which was then matched by the Department of Transport and Regional Services. The program will be independently evaluated by Southern Cross University.

Linda said the program was about modelling good attitudes to driving. She said many young people didnt have a suitable person to take them on their supervised 50 hours of driving. If they had no way of obtaining a licence, they could resort to driving without one.

Meanwhile, if they learn their driving culture from other teenagers, what they learn is to take risks and to go fast and see how close to the edge they can go, she said.

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