Set New Farm kids free range

By Steph Maker

Spaces for tweens and teens to get active are vital for their development; local parents, however, are concerned that hang-out spots are few and far between in New Farm.

Local mum and Clinical Social Worker Leisa Tanner said parents’ concerns are founded – and the push for youth-centred infrastructure is warranted.

“There is a growing body of research to suggest that the decline in unstructured play is having a detrimental impact upon the emotional and mental health of young people and has contributed to a rise in anxiety and depression in adolescents,” Ms Tanner said.

“By providing activity-based communal places, young people have the opportunity to develop core life skills such as decision making and problem solving, how to follow the rules, how to build friendships and manage conflict and how to manage emotions.

“These skills are essential throughout life and help foster resilience and self-esteem, both of which we know promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

“As children reach the tween and adolescent years, their play needs change and they tend to want more adventurous and communal spaces where they can share a common, physical activity whilst hanging out together.

“Such spaces provide a sense of community and often lead to the development of strong friendships in the tween and adolescent years, a time when generally teenagers can be vulnerable to social isolation and belonging to a peer group becomes very important.”

New Farm resident and father of four Ben Wallwork also wants to see something new for local kids to do in the neighbourhood.

“There’s something for almost everyone,” Mr Wallwork said — with the exception of infrastructure for tweens and teens.

“I think a lot of people came here without kids, then those people have had children, and I think I’m right in saying there’s a lot more teenage children in New Farm than there was about ten or fifteen years ago.”

Mr Wallwork said he understands the nature of inner-city living, but feels there are opportunities for innovative thinkers to build infrastructure to benefit teens.

“I love it here, I wouldn’t live anywhere else, and if we wanted to have a horse and ten acres, we’d go and live at Brookfield.”

“I think we’re lacking things for kids to do that’s a bit adventurous, things they can do independently.

“There’s some good spaces in the area where if someone had a little initiative, they could really create something cool for kids, something for them to do.”

Options are limited by imagination and logistics, but Mr Wallwork made a number of suggestions.

“They could put in a full-size basketball court, they could put up netball rings, outdoor table tennis tables, handball courts.

“I reckon they could put in a little track for kids to ride their bikes.”

“There’s lots of organised activities, but sometimes it’s nice for kids to have unstructured activities – they have so much structure at school and sport – sometimes it’s just nice to get out and hang out”

Local mum Karen Ridoutt echoes Mr Wallwork’s points, and said her son would love more space to play basketball in the park with his mates.

“My son loves to shoot hoops, and he can never get on the half basketball court.”

“He says there’s no point, whenever he looks to see if it’s free, there’s always big guys on it.”

“It’s very frustrating.”

Are you a New Farm parent or teenager?

What infrastructure would you like to see built in the neighbourhood?

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