The results of an underage drinking report were presented and debated at a mock meeting of Busselton City Council on Monday evening.
Cape Naturaliste College students presented the report and were joined in a formal debate session by Busselton Senior High and MacKillop Catholic College students, who are members of the Southern Rip Youth Leadership Team.
Councillor Grant Henley set the ball rolling when he put forward a mock motion to lower Busselton’s legal drinking age to 14, which was then amended to 15 years of age.
Councillor David Reid spoke for the motion and recalled the last time the legal alcohol drinking age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1969, when he was old enough to fight for his country but too young to purchase alcohol.
The students aged between 14 and 17 argued against a change to the law, stating underage drinking could negatively impact physical, mental, emotional and social development.
The group’s other arguments included the high risk of youth becoming addicted to alcohol, which they believed could lead to physical abuse, unprotected sex, illicit drug use and teen suicide from depression.
The vote on the motion to lower the legal drinking age in Busselton was defeated.
The students used the opportunity to make recommendations to elected members, suggesting regular alcohol-free events such as Fluronic Beatz, youth-orientated summer holiday programs and beach-based activities would benefit the region’s youth.
A critical need was also identified for a youth-friendly drop-in location to provide a safe place to socialise on the weekends.
The report showed infrastructure was needed to offer a broad appeal and provide activities to engage female youth along with fee subsidies for recreational activities.
Early education and publications on the short and long-term effects of alcohol usage as well as information on building tolerance, resilience and self-esteem, was also a suggestion from the youth group, along with stronger laws and punishments for underage drinking and secondary alcohol supply along with education for parents on how to handle difficult teens.
Cr Reid said he enjoyed the strength of students’ arguments while Southern Rip’s Rance Driscoll thanked the councillors for helping youth to understand the democratic decision-making process.