Nicqui's Blog ~
With my youngest daughter turning 16 in just 10 days, I find myself contemplating on whether she is prepared for the responsibilities that come with her pending birthday. 16 is an age where most mothers of girls finally breathe a sigh of relief. The day they turn 16, we can finally give them the responsibility for being in charge of their own bodies. We are no longer needing to hold onto their virginity and their sexuality for them. We do what we can up until that age, to make sure that we keep them 'safe'. Why? Because the law says that until they turn 16, it is illegal for them to have sexual intercourse and we as parents are responsible for their sexuality. But the fact is, that by 16, many of them of course, have already been sexually active. Most parents just haven't been able to admit it to anyone.
Sexual exploration is a normal part of growing up. From the age of 11, when girls bodies start to change so rapidly, they see themselves as sexual beings. They spend more time looking at themselves in the mirror during those teen years, than they ever will for the rest of their lives. They are looking to see what others will see of them, as what becomes extremely important during those teen years, is the approval of others. They are forming a sense of self-identity, trying to find their place, what they look good in, how they should wear their hair, what colours suit them... all the things that form them into the look that they want to walk in the world with. And of course, the look that will attract others to them.
What I find scary though as a parent of todays teens, is that they are so heavily influenced by the unrealistic views of the media and the digital world. When I was growing up, the raciest thing I ever got to see, was an occasional glimpse of the sealed section of Cleo or Cosmo magazines. These days, hardcore pornography is available 24/7 at the tap of a finger. Anything and everything is available to be googled. Anything and everything, that is, except mundane reality.
Our teens are growing up in an on-line fantasy world, mainly created by adult geeks, who have also lost touch with the everyday norms of what the world was like only 20 years ago, when imagination was what you made of it. Kids these days don't need an imagination, they can just google the thing they want to know about and watch it on youtube. They've lost the power to dream on their own...
In some ways, the information age gives them incredible power, yet in other ways, it is robbing them of the very tools that got us through to adulthood, the power of using our own brains and imagination to conjure up the dreams that shaped our futures.
I spent the day yesterday at the Sex and Consciousness Conference in Byron Bay. I actually didn't go to the whole conference, in fact, as a 45 year old woman, there wasn't much happening in the conference that I felt I needed to know more about. Most of the content of the Conference, I've been exploring since my own teens as a curious Scorpio girl. But, I was invited to be on the Parenting Panel for the parents session of YOUthSpeak, so I also went along to the youth panel session, held just prior, to listen to the young people. As a mother of two girls, a youth worker and a conscious parent, I am interested in what young people think and what they have to say, especially about things like sexuality.
I was in awe of the 6 young panelists. None were over the age of 25 and although all very different humans, with different experiences in life, they all had one thing in common. They all believed that they didn't know enough about sexuality and all wanted parents and adults to be more open and communicative about it with them. None of them felt they were prepared enough growing up, for the challenges of having meaningful relationships and understanding their own bodies and the basics of what sexuality means.
This didn't surprise me, as I also felt that when I was growing up, there was little, or no real preparation for my own emerging sexuality. I've always looked back and thanked the Universe that I was born in November and therefore naturally curious about all things Scorpionic and sexual! But, as an adult, I've also looked at my family and my female elders and that in itself has been quite eye-opening. I have learned to forgive my mother for not teaching me the many things that I've discovered I've needed to know as a women and an adult. She herself didn't get much guidance from her mother. My Grandmother, as lovely and as smart as she was, was also an alcoholic. My mother would have had very little tutoring from my Grandmother, through the haze of scotch whisky that dominated her days and nights. Thankfully, my mother never drank, but she wasn't very good with relationships, so I grew up in a different kind of a haze... being left alone a lot while she worked or looked for love. And of course, I was raised by a mother who herself had very little education from her mother about what it meant to be a woman and a sexual being.
I listened to the stories of the young people on the panel yesterday and was so incredibly grateful that my nearly 16 year old was also there listening. She is such a normal kid, my girl, uses the word 'embarrassing' when I want to have 'those' talks with her, but in the end, often gives in and we chat, sometimes very briefly, but little by little, I have watched her take in all those conversations and I know that in some ways, she is just that bit more prepared than I was for having relationships. Yet in other ways, she isn't, because she's not as naturally curious as I was. But, she is a very wise young girl about a lot of the things that do matter in relationships, how to be a good friend, how to listen, and she has a really solid sense of right and wrong, so hopefully these things will help to carry her through.
In just 4 hours yesterday, I feel like my daughter had a lot of 'ah ha' moments. I think the timing of my being involved in the panel, was also a great thing for my daughter. We left there, talking all the way home and then later last night, we also ran into four of the youth panel members in town. We stood around and talked about the afternoon, about the issues that were raised and about how we all feel the same way... we all want more... more conversations about sexuality... more education... more openness... and more ways to help make young people ready to become sexually aware adults.
It is a pity that when the parenting panel was happening, the youth panel members were still caught up in conversations outside the venue, as we struggled with this session. There were 6 of us on the panel and although all parents, we were of course, all different types of parents and the conversations seemed to stray a lot more than on the youth panel. We were given no direction from the convener, which is a shame, because at times, it strayed so far off the beaten path of the reality of teenagers, that it seemed almost pointless. Personally, I was grateful for my long-term mate Mandy Nolan also being on the panel, because I felt that we were the only ones that made any sense about anything. Too much whohar and too little real advice coming from many of the others I thought. And I was also ever-so-grateful that my daughter was there too, as she confirmed how I had felt about it. But I felt sorry for the parents that were there looking for answers, as I didn't feel like they were given much in the way of realistic advice for their problems. A lesson learned for me I think... if you do a panel, try to meet with the other panel members before-hand and get some direction for how it should be handled, who they are and where they are at with the subject too.
Parents struggle with raising teens. There are thousands of issues that arise during those years, where we are the ones that have to give over the 'correct' information, to make sure that we 'grow' our teens into responsible adults. It is the biggest job a human can ever do and the most important one. And we get absolutely no education on how to do it right. it is all just winging it, trial and error, learning from our own mistakes, making up the lessons as we go and using our imagination to hopefully come up with the right advise to get them through those teen years without being too messed up!
When it comes to teenagers and emerging sexuality, nothing is as hard as the problems that can come up for parents during this time! And of course, if you have sexually active teens who are under 16, then it can be a real lonely struggle. As conscious parents, we need to find ways to help us to communicate more with each other about these things and help each other with the struggle. We all go through many of the same issues. We all have basic things that we need to teach our teens, yet sex and teenagers is a bit of a taboo subject. One of the youth panel members mentioned this and wondered when it became this way.
I find it astonishing that here we are in 2012, with all the knowledge that we have on the human body, right down to our DNA, but we haven't figured out how to educate our young on the absolute basics of being human. Sex education in school is still no more intricate than learning how to bake a 5 min cake. Eggs, flour, sugar, butter, mix it all together, stick it in a tin, pop it in the oven for 20 mins and then you get to eat it! This is a penis, this is a vagina, mix them together, bake the ingredients for 9 months and then you get to be a parent!
In fact, I find that there is really nothing that schools educate our young for, that is really essential to becoming a human in the real world. And with the fact that most of us are working parents, struggling to make enough money just to send them to school, it's almost ironic. What many of today's teens are missing, is the real connection with the family unit. There aren't many elders close to most families these days. We live in a big, wide and very separate world, where making the money to survive is the most important thing that we all have to do. We have all lost the intimacy that we need to raise those teens into adults, having had real experience with relationships and learning through observing their parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles.
What do we do about it? I'm not sure. But from listening to the members of the youth panel yesterday, maybe they will come up with the answers. They sure know what the questions are...
I'm glad my girl is turning 16 in 10 days. I am looking forward to breathing that sigh of relief... that I helped to get her there... 'safe' and hopefully with enough of a sound mind, that she will make her way into adulthood, having been guided by the consciousness of my parenting... as undereducated as I still believe I was... I think I've done an ok job and I know she's going to be a wonderful and conscious adult.
Life is short... Make it matter...
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Two years ago today, I received the Australia Day Award for 2010 Byron Shire Citizen of the Year... It was a strange day for me with so many mixed emotions, as Australia Day is for some, the day that celebrates the anniversary of white settlement BUT it is also known as Survival Day, and for others it is a day of mourning for the invasion and dispossession of Australia's Aboriginal people.
Since moving to Byron 14 years ago, I have been privileged to learn far more about indigenous culture than ever before. Byron is a place that swims in this amazing culture. One of the first things that I experienced here was a wonderful day of Dolphin Dreaming at Cosy Corner, with a lot of other women and children, it opened my eyes to how special a place this is and to the amazing true history that these beautiful women shared with me, through their dance, their stories and their art.
It is a shame about the weather, because today I would normally be in Main Beach Park with the Sisters for Reconciliation sharing a celebration of the Survival of Indigenous Culture and honouring the Arakwal Bundjalung people. The first time I missed this was the day I received my Australia Day Award... as I said, it was a day of mixed emotions...
The thing I remember most about the Australia Day Awards Ceremony in 2010, was the "Welcome to Country" by Yvonne Stewart from the Arakwal Corporation. Yvonne said
"This is the first time that I have been at an official Australia Day ceremony and it's a great honour".
"Australia Day is a great celebration of people coming together and a reflection of our past."
"It's also a time to acknowledge our future."
It was also the first time she'd been invited.
Over the years of living in Byron, some of the things that stand out the most in my memories, are the words of women like Yvonne Stewart and Delta Kay, two beautiful Arakwal women. Their stories of their childhood, their families and their land. I remember being at a ceremony at Byron High with my daughter and listening to Delta tell the story of the land that the school now stands on, the stories of her Grandmother and how this was her playground. Even though my family has now been here for 7 generations, it is in hearing the original stories of Australia, that I feel a deep sadness for what has come since white man first arrived.
There is no way to take back the past, and in Yvonne's words "It's also a time to acknowledge our future." but there is a dark hole in my soul for what has happened in Australia's past and the healing of this darkness belongs to all of us who share this wonderful land.
I accepted my Australia Day Award in 2010 with both joy and sadness, as I know that the work that I do, in some way, has come from the empathy I have learned to feel through being a lucky Australian, but also in sadness, to know that our lucky country is also a place with a very dark history of mistreatment of its original people. Something that I wish never to be repeated, anywhere...
So, when you celebrate Australia Day, please also remember our indigenous people, take a moment to honour them and give thanks for the fact that today, we also share what was once their land and take care of this wonderful place, as we are only caretakers and how we treat it, is also how we will leave it for the next generations to come.
Life is short... Make it matter...
The Senior Australian of the Year for 2012 is Laurie Baymarrwangga...
In the nine decades since her birth on the island of Murrungga, Laurie Baymarrwangga has seen the arrival of missionaries, exploitation by Japanese and European fishermen, war and tumultuous change. Undaunted, she has almost single-handedly nurtured the inter-generational transmission of local ecological knowledge through a lifelong commitment to caring for kin, culture and country. In the 1960s Laurie established a housing project on her homelands that has benefitted generations of kin. Speaking no English, with no access to funding, resources or expertise she initiated the Yan-nhangu dictionary project. Her cultural maintenance projects include the Crocodile Islands Rangers, a junior rangers group and an online Yan-nhangu dictionary for school children. In 2010, after a struggle stretching back to 1945, Laurie finally received back payments for rents owed to her as the land and sea owner of her father's estate. She donated it all, around $400,000, to improve education and employment opportunities on the island and to establish a 1,000 square kilometre turtle sanctuary on her marine estate. In the face of many obstacles, this great, great grandmother has shown extraordinary leadership and courage in caring for the cultural and biological integrity of her beloved Crocodile Islands.
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I spent the day yesterday with a group of 30 Byron Schoolies HUB Volunteers training to be Youth Mental Health First Aiders. These skills are going to come in handy in just a few weeks time, when 10,000 young school leavers from all over Australia, descend on Byron Bay for their end of Year 12 celebrations.
It is a very busy time in Byron, and with the fact that many of these young visitors are under the age of 18, they are limited with what they can do to keep themselves occupied. Those over 18 will of course party in the pubs and clubs, but for the 17 year olds, the park and the beach will become their favourite hang while they are here. This can lead to a few problems, so in 2009, we formed the Byron Schoolies Safety Response and the first HUB marquee went up in Main Beach Park, open 24 hours a day, for 18 days straight and we helped to look out for these young people.
It's not just about the visitors, it also helps to keep an eye on our own community, the young people that live here, the businesses in town and make sure that our little costal village doesn't suffer too much under the attention from this young group of visitors.
Although we give them the message that "Schoolies in Byron is no big party... chill out... relax... and enjoy the special vibe..." They are coming here to celebrate and party after all, and this can lead to all sorts of problems for the local community. For many of these young visitors, it will be their first holiday away from their families. It might also be the first time that they get seriously intoxicated and potentially so many things can go wrong for them. Many will lose their wallets and purses, their mobile phones, their room keys, their friends and for some, even their dignity!
So, for 18 days again this year, for the third time, the Byron Schoolies HUB will be offering all sorts of support for these young visitors. We will have a fully stocked first aid station for the hundreds of band-aid moments that will walk into the HUB, a huge water tank to keep them hydrated, tourist information tables and thousands of condoms, thanks to the lovely folk at Ansell... because we don't want them to turn their parents into grandparents at Schoolies!!
The most important thing that we'll have in the HUB, are smiling local faces. These wonderfully dedicated HUB Volunteers will be working around the clock in 4 hour shifts, all through the day and night, to make sure that our young visitors have a safe and happy holiday here in Byron. We have a philosophy here that what we are doing 'we would hope that others in other places would do for our kids if they went there...' It is a way of not only keeping these kids as safe as we can, but also protecting the local community as well.
We are not new to having high numbers of tourists here, Byron is after all the number two tourist destination in NSW and number 1 on the backpacker trail, and we have a number of festivals every year that bring tens of thousands of visitors here, but these young Schoolies are a little different. They are young, inexperienced and many will find themselves in spots of bother... hopefully what we do with the HUB, will help them out when they need it.
The HUB is actually a really fun place, not just for the visitors, but for our Volunteers too. They love their time in the HUB! They meet new people, help out the schoolies, eat free pancakes and chai that the Red Frogs will be making at night from the HUB... and they feel like they are a part of a real community response. This year, we have managed to obtain funding to train 50 of our volunteers in Youth Mental Health First Aid and Apply First Aid training, so between our newly trained volunteers and those that already have qualifications in first aid, we should be able to offer support in many, many ways, to these young visitors.
The Youth Mental Health First Aid training will equip the volunteers with many skills in not only recognising all the common mental health problems that affect young Australians, but also handling crisis situations and for some, they will no doubt be able to use these skills in their time in the HUB. There will be many situations where they will be assisting young people in various states of intoxication and possibly psychosis, anxiety moments and panic attacks, aggressive behaviour, overdose and potentially even suicidal behaviours. All of these situations and more, have been covered in their Youth Mental Health First Aid training. And the best thing is that they will also be able to put these skills to use in their own lives outside of Volunteering for Schoolies. This training will equip them to be able to help their friends, their family and their workmates.
Volunteering does have many benefits, this free training was a wonderful addition to this year's HUB, but volunteering in itself is great for your personal mental health... it is a good feeling to be able to give your time to doing something for your community and it has so many knock-on benefits for the community as a whole.
If you think you might like to volunteer in your own community, the first place to start might be to look at the local not-for-profit organisations. They are often in need of volunteers to help them out, as they are usually on very limited budgets and funding and need to rely on the services of volunteers to assist with their initiatives. Check out the youth organisations, the community centres, neighbourhood centres, drop-in centres, those that help the young, the aged, the homeless... these are often the most needy organisations for volunteers. Giving a little, often has a huge benefit for these organisations... and it makes you feel good too, to know that your time is benefiting your community and others in your community...
Life is short... make it matter!
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The first three words you find describe you...
They were the first three words I found, in that order and I actually saw love and beautiful simultaneously and immediately wondered "how easy was that!". They stood out like...something! Then after such a glorious start, it did actually take me a moment or two to see another word and then came funny. I thought that was funny. I've heard a lot more people call me serious than funny! Funny is rare for me and I have absolutely and totally no recall of jokes, in one ear and then who knows??
I'm a bit the same with names and faces! I can meet someone again and again and again, to be told again and again "we've met a number of times". But with names, I am shocking and add to it that I can very rarely know where I know someone from, or remember the conversations they glow about. They obviously thought we had a moment though! Maybe we did and I just can't remember!!... something about ageing!
I feel terrible when this happens to me, it makes me feel like the person I can't remember, isn't important enough to have left an iota of memory in me! And that, that is what they must think I think of them. These are moments when I feel really bad for someone because I can't remember something. I hate making people disappointed or sad.
There is a certain beauty in sadness though and at times we are compellingly drawn to it. It makes us feel something, sometimes intensely. We're also set up to see sadness in others and even animals and landscapes.
Feeling someone else's pain is in a way morbidly fascinating and we find it easy to slip into their torture with them and get sad or angry, passionate, even vengeful right along with them. It is strangely fulfilling to us humans to share each other's pain.
I spend most of my time talking about the things that hurt us or give us joy, sometimes at the same time. I'm fascinated by those things that make us tick and even more so by the things that make us stick!
I'm always so amazed by the fact that any of us are here at all, considering the odds from day dot! And us humans, vulnerable creatures we all are, live in such a fine balance, with so many things that can be so wrong. We live in a state of chaos where anything can happen. Nothing is for sure...
Love, beautiful and funny... the three words that are meant to describe me...
I guess I am a bit of a funny girl, but not in the humorous way, more like "she's a funny girl, like strange funny, you know??" But I do love humour, I'm a big comedy fan, a bit of an 'in awe' type of fan. It always amazes me how funny people are! And because my memory is a bit unreliable, I can see the same comedians again and again, doing the same routines and find it funny every time!
Beautiful is a word I know well and for a really long time. It was actually a word that used to rise a bit of passion in me, not in the 'let's get it on" way, but in a way like I'd meet someone and he'd go to open his mouth and I'd think "here we go again" and I knew he was gonna say to me something like "Gee, you're beautiful!" and I'm gonna immediately turn off to him and look at him like he's just some dude who wants to skew the pretty girl. Nah pfffft!
I used to love a conversation with someone new, who didn't almost immediately say something to me about something about me being beautiful, my hair, my skin, the colour of my skin, my hands, my ears but especially my ankles and my eyes, yes ankles! Beautiful-less conversations were like a special treat for me, but if they didn't notice I was pretty, I could get past the mesmerising and just get down to a good old natter with someone.
Beauty can be a bit of a curse. It can also get you places. It can confuse your lives, it can see you unfairly judged, it can make you feel like your soul has been overlooked. It can make your 'beautiful' unseen and overshadowed by the fantasy of the female form in the minds and libido of men! and the green-eyed-monster envy of women! That is all.
The funny thing is (hahah there's that funny word again), I find as the beauty fades the true beautiful really shines in most people.
As young girls growing uncomfortably into women's bodies, we never see ourselves as truly beautiful, we always see all our faults, blemishes and imperfections. Others are always more beautiful than us. We live in constant fear of our bodies in case they might be seen as offensive to someone.
Many of us miss seeing how beautiful we are when we are young, because we are afraid to look at ourselves or show ourselves as we really are, naturally and without guilt. because there is something a little not quite right about us.
Then comes 40!
Thankfully, as we age, these things become less important and eventually they just disappear all together. Some of us will learn to Love the tribal markings that make us us. We've earned them, they tell our story. For many women, we become what we have aspired to become, ageing beautifully and becoming wiser. We can now look back at ourselves and see the beauty in our youth through the eyes of our older selves.
And that is how others now see us too, beyond the facade of beautiful youth... a woman who has blossomed, beautifully.
This is the gift for women over 40.
It all comes down to Love, how we Love ourselves and the world we live in and our comfort, in being with those we Love enough to share our beautiful and funny journey with.
Yep, I resemble that.
Life is short... make it matter!
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Binge drinking is by far the most problematic of all the teenage issues. Young people are drinking at much greater levels than those of their parents at the same age. And they are doing it differently. They mix their alcohol with energy drinks, which themselves can cause real big problems with things like anxiety and risky-behaviour. They also mix alcohol with all sorts of other drugs, both illicit and prescription medications.
Alcohol is a drug. Let's not kid ourselves about this. It is also the most commonly used drug across all age groups. The short-term implications of drinking alcohol at risky levels are bad enough, but the long-term implications can be devastating! For those young people who take up drinking before the age of 15, the biggest problems they will face in their future, are going to be mental health problems and possibly serious health issues. It's even worse for those who take it up before the age of 13. They are pretty much guaranteed that they will face dire issues as adults.
In Australia, the highest levels of alcohol consumption are seen in those under the age of 18. They're not even legally allowed to drink alcohol yet! So how has this become such a huge problem for our teens? Well, the answer is simple, adults are supplying it to them. You can't walk into a bottle shop as a 13 year old and buy it yourself!
The major supplier to teens are actually their parents!
So why do adults, and parents who should know better, do this? For some parents that I talk with, they tell me that they think that it is better for them to buy the alcohol for their teens and have them drink it at home, in a controlled environment. Is this true though?
No, not at all, according to all the research. Parents who buy alcohol for their kids, are literally giving them a green light to go ahead and drink, anywhere, anytime! They are literally giving them permission to drink!
All the research over the last 15 years on how alcohol affects the still-forming teenage brain, tells us that the minute you put alcohol in the mix, then you are doing damage to that brain, before it's even finished forming. The most important areas of the adult brain, do not finish growing until up to about age 28 or 29 in males and a few years earlier in females. I wrote about this in my previous blog 'Drive fast... Die Young!'. Not only is the brain still growing, but of course alcohol totally messes with our thinking and behaviour. It leads us to do things that when we are sober, we wouldn't even think about doing! It is also implicated in about 80% of all suicides.
Alcohol is also a depressant. We are not just talking here about what it does to the central nervous system, it also has a huge effect on our mental state. I'll say it again, alcohol is a depressant!
With the fact that 50% of all mental health problems that will ever exist, are already there by the time we turn 18, 75% by age 25, how many of these problems might be directly attributed to alcohol use in the teenage years? Quite a lot according to the research!
Too many adults tell me that teenage binge-drinking is just a phase that they are going through and that they grow out of it. Maybe so. But are they going to come out of it with all their faculties intact? I don't think so! A lot of parents also tell me that binge-drinking is a rite of passage for teenagers, they did it too, and they survived. Well, the facts are that their kids are doing it differently and the most likely outcome is going to be a lot different to their parents. A rite of passage? No, it is a wrong passage for them to take, and there is nothing right about it!
So, how do we tackle this problem of teenage binge-drinking?
One of the first things that we can do, it to 'Just say NO'. If, as parents and adults, we take a stand in not buying or supplying our teens with alcohol, then it will make it harder for them to access it. We can also make sure that they have enough money on them for what they might need if they are out with friends, but not enough to buy a bottle of vodka! It seems that many teens have way too much money given to them by their parents. We can also make a difference by watching our own behaviours towards alcohol. How much do we need to have in our own homes? Lots of young people are just able to help themselves to their parents stock. Do we always need to celebrate events with alcohol? Can't we have a clean gathering every now and then?
Our behaviours really set our kids up with many of their behaviours to come. We really need to think about what we show to them.
We can also become pro-active in our own communities. At the moment in Byron Bay, we are fighting a proposed Dan Murphy's superstore. Why? Because it's door is going to be right next to the door to the only youth entertainment in town, the cinema. It is smack bang right in the centre of town, where young teens gather. It will also sell alcohol at such ridiculously cheap prices, that our kids will be paying between 10c and 30c for a standard drink! $1.99 bottles of wine and even cheaper per drink if you buy a cask! Lots of bang for little bucks!
As parents, you can educate yourselves about the issues with alcohol and teenagers. Read the articles about it. Read what the research says. Search for strategies that can help you to help your kids have a good start in life, without alcohol messing up their brains forever and leaving them with mental health problems.
It's not that hard to make small changes, that can make a big difference in the end.
Life is short.... make it matter...
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Today's news article that grabbed me the most was the one about a local 17 year old Mullumbimby boy, who barely escaped jail for what can only be considered a really stupid act! He was clocked by police driving his car at 205km/h with a car load of teens! He wasn't the only one caught that week either, in fact there were 5 of them in just three days... to quote from the Tweed/Byron Police on facebook ~ "Multiple high speed detections - A total of 5 high speed detections on the Pacific Highway, Cudgera Creek between 1/9/11 & 4/9/11... 1/9 - 22 year old checked at speed of 206kph... 2/9 - 23 year old checked at 194kph... A second 23 year old was also checked at 187kph... 3/9 - 17 year old checked at 205kph... 4/9 - 20 year old checked at 184kph" ... ALL DRIVERS WERE MALE!!
What is the go with young guys and stupid behaviour in cars?
So, the 17 year old Mullum boy went to court yesterday and lucky for him, the Magistrate declined to impose the maximum nine-month prison sentence on the basis that he is only 17 years old and has a clean record. He then disqualified the boy's licence for three years, imposed a two-year good-behaviour bond and issued a stern warning "If you appear in here again whether you are 17 or not, you can expect to go to prison."
But is this good enough? Or should he have thrown the book at this boy and sent a clear warning to others, that if they drive like this, then they should expect to be jailed!
And I've got to ask where the Magistrate gets his idea of a clean record... the boy is only 17! What kind of record should he have at that age? Maybe if he hadn't been caught, he could have clocked up a human road kill or two in the next year or so!
In the 'Burden of Disease and Injury in Australians' aged 15-24 (2003), Road Traffic Accidents rank and the second highest burden in males and the 6th highest cause in females. (The Burden of Disease is a combined measure of premature death and years lived with disability caused by an illness or injury.) That is a pretty gobsmacking thing! I wonder how many young people know that?
So what is the solution to the problems of young people and erratic behaviour in vehicles?
Maybe we should be making driving lessons and road safety a compulsory subject in high school. There are so few 'life skills' taught to young people in schools and yet, there are so many irrelevant subjects forced upon them that they will never use in the real world.
Maybe we should also be electronically speed limiting their cars until the age of 25, or even 30 if the statistics on the human road toll for that age group are taken into account.
There are reasons why they have placed restrictions on how young people are allowed to drive, including limiting the number of passengers they are allowed to carry, and a lot of this has come from what we have learned about the teenage brain and its development. The pre-frontal cortex does not finish developing until the late 20's in males and a bit earlier in females. This is the area of the brain that is crucial for rational decision making, multi-tasking, weighing outcomes, forming correct judgements, controlling impulses and our emotions. It is the part of the brain that tells us to put the brakes on when we're out of control.... and it is the part of the brain that is still growing through those teen, adolescent and young adult years.
When I was growing up, my Grandfather wouldn't let me go for my licence, until he had taught me everything that he knew about what can go wrong in a vehicle. He took me out onto country roads, dirt roads, loose gravel, wet roads and made sure that I knew how to handle a car in any condition. He also taught me how to change a tyre, check the oil and water, know how much air pressure my tyres should have, listen for strange sounds from the car and so much more. He made me learn how to squeeze the car into the tightest parks, to make sure I checked exactly how I had parked, how far from the curb, perfectly in between the lines, how far away from the corner I needed to be, and of course reverse parking and hand brake take off's on hills had to be perfect.
If only my Grandfather was still alive! I would have him write the curriculum that they should teach our kids in high school... maybe it could save lives!!
Life is short... do it right and make it matter...
James Dean died at the age of 24 - That day, he was pulled over by police at 3.30pm for speeding. After being stopped, he continued on his way. Two hours later, at around 5.30pm his roaring Porsche had a near head-on collision with another car. This photo shows what was left of his car, nicknamed the "Little Bastard".
The link below will take you to a youtube video from TACVictoria... a timely reminder why we all need to take it easy on the roads... the lives of others depend on it.
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