By Melissa Grant
The teenage years can be a challenge.
It’s a time of rapid change marked by a host of stresses, temptations and mental health issues.
It’s also a time when a young person can feel quite alone as they find it difficult to relate to their parents or reach out to them for support.
That’s where My Place comes in.
The youth facility has been helping teens in the Cardinia Shire since 2012 and is about to undergo a $1.5 million expansion.
It’s a place where young people can hang out, access computers for free, enjoy after school and school holiday activities, and have a chat to youth workers.
It’s also a facility where they can access support to vital services relating to education, training, employment, drug and alcohol counselling and mental health.
And the Oakwood School also runs out of the centre, with between 50-80 young people attending each weekday.
Cardinia’s youth population has grown so fast that My Place – located on Main St, Pakenham – can’t keep up with demand for the services it provides.
The $1.5 million in federal funding will allow council to expand My Place.
“The funding isn’t just about providing a building,” Cardinia Shire Team Leader Youth Services Emma Firth explained.
“It allows us to support young people to build a safe and healthy life for themselves.”
Ms Firth said it was imperative that young people could access support services close to home.
“Before My Place opened there were very few youth services based in or outreaching into the shire – young people had to travel into Dandenong or Narre Warren to access the services that they needed,” she said.
“Now young people can access them from My Place youth facility and some services are now providing outreach so that they can see young people in their local town at their school or home.”
Another youth facility called The Point has also been opened a few doors down to help fill the short-term need for additional counselling rooms. Community groups can hire space at The Point to deliver youth groups and programs.
While parents can visit My Place if they have concerns about their child, the facility offers much more than programs for teens experiencing difficulties.
Ms Firth encouraged mums and dads to visit the centre to discover the programs and services available.
Young people can drop into My Place between 1pm and 5pm on weekdays to see a youth worker.
The facility is also open between 9am and 12pm weekdays by appointment only.