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Spotlight: Planet Youth pilot in Lithgow & Limestone Coast LDATs

The Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) program supports community organisations to reduce harms from alcohol and other drugs (AOD) in their local area.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation supports LDATs, helping them to build or extend local partnerships, and develop and deliver evidence-based activities where it matters the most - at the grassroots, community level.

In 2019, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation joined forces with Iceland’s Planet Youth alcohol and drug prevention model to trial the model in Australia, through the Local Drug Action Team program.

Developed over 20 years ago, Planet Youth has been highly successful in improving wellbeing and reducing alcohol and other drug use among young people. It has now been used in over 30 countries worldwide.

In Australia, the model is being piloted across seven regions in New South Wales and South Australia, thanks to funding from the Australian Government and Wellbeing SA.

New South Wales’ Lithgow LDAT and South Australia’s Limestone Coast LDAT are two of the pilot sites.

Both are working with parents, schools and community partners to target the risk  factors in young people’s lives that determine their substance use behaviours, as well as the protective factors in young people’s lives that provide a positive social environment to grow up in.

Here we take a look at how both LDATs are progressing and find out how greater collaboration is benefiting their communities.

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Sophie Bourchier, Project Officer for Limestone Coast LDAT

Limestone Coast LDAT

The Substance Misuse Limestone Coast LDAT’s pilot kicked off with a comprehensive survey from Planet Youth for around 270 Year-10 students from four schools in the Grant and Mount Gambier Council areas.

Their challenge

Data collected was analysed by the expert Planet Youth team and showed that the key risk factors for students in the local area were mainly around unsupervised hours and drinking at other people’s homes.

Their response

Sophie Bourchier, Project Officer for the LDAT, says there is no doubt that the Planet Youth approach can create a healthier community.

“Its benefits are endless. Better health and wellbeing for young people and forging relationships with sporting associations, councils and schools to spread its reach.

“We know family time increases protective factors and we’re educating parents through the media and posters, using the ideas from Iceland.”

A highlight for Sophie has been showing the governing councils of schools what they can do to embed evidence-based alcohol and other drug education into their curriculum.

Their progress

“While, at this early stage, change can’t be quantified, we know we’re having a positive response,” Sophie said.

And that’s a sentiment echoed by Liana Bellifemini, Senior Community Development Officer with the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

“The Limestone Coast LDAT, particularly Sophie, proactively ensured the Planet Youth Year 10 survey findings were shared with local decision makers,” Liana explained.

“All seven councils in the Limestone Coast region, as well as all School Parent Governance Groups, were engaged around the risk factors identified through the survey and were provided with guidelines on building up the protective factors for young people.

“This holds the Limestone Coast community in good stead to build on prevention activities to reduce AOD harms through the implementation of the Planet Youth model.”

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Lithgow LDAT Planet Youth forum

Lithgow LDAT

Lithgow LDAT in NSW is another Planet Youth pilot site. Ali Kim, Lithgow City Council’s Community Development Officer, points to the Planet Youth model as a powerful partnership builder.

“It came at the right time. We realised that to change the culture we needed to focus on the young ones.”

Their challenge

Insights from the LDAT’s initial Planet Youth schools survey indicated that parents did not know the parents of their children’s friends and that more activities for young people were needed in Lithgow City.

Their response

Over the past 12 months, despite COVID-19 and bushfire crises, Lithgow LDAT has increased its membership and strengthened community support for young people across the four core domains that Planet Youth model seeks to influence: peers, school, parents and leisure.

“The LDAT has established avenues to engage parents. This has enabled parents to participate in identifying ways to increase protective factors [against AOD harms] that benefit children and young people in their community,” said Ellen Panaretos, Senior Community Development Officer with the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

Their progress

“Our youth drop-in space started as a music space but has grown into a homework and board games space. Each term we’ve had it at different cafes. It’s where kids come to hang out and we get to know the kids,” said Ali.

The LDAT also engaged a Youth Council that has led to the establishment of other youth groups in the area and increased their ‘voice’ through media.

These young people are now the core group raising awareness of both the LDAT’s Planet Youth strategies and young people’s needs with community influencers.

Note: Follow up Planet Youth surveys will be held in Australia in late 2021/early 2022.  Opportunities to expand the trial to further sites in Australia are also being explored. 

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