An independent review of the Upper Hunter Shire Council’s Youth Services has found no evidence to support allegations of drug and alcohol abuse occurring at the Merriwa Youth Centre.
These allegations caused distress to Council staff and to young people who use the Merriwa Youth Centre.
Young people and their parents should be assured that the Youth Centre offers a supportive and safe environment to socialise.
Persons made the drug and alcohol abuse allegations during a public forum in Merriwa in August 2016 for candidates for the local government election.
These claims were then published on a local website in a report of the meeting, which was shared to a Merriwa Facebook group, giving the allegations a broad audience.
Council staff, Youth Centre volunteers and young people who attend the Youth Centre expressed concern to Council management and Councillors, that they were being maligned by these allegations.
After a formal complaint was put to the Mayor, it was determined to engage an independent company to investigate the allegations. PEEL HR Consulting and Mediation investigated over recent months interviewing witnesses including young people, current and former staff, and reviewing relevant correspondence, documents, policies and other records.
Persons who made the allegations declined to take part in the investigation.
The report remains confidential as it contains private information concerning staff and community members.
The report found that Youth Centre staff had taken the appropriate legal responses when young people have entered the Centre already under the influence of alcohol, which had occurred twice in the last two and a half years.
The investigation also examined whether similar drug and alcohol allegations had been raised in a Festival of the Fleeces committee meeting in February 2014. Members of the committee were interviewed and there was no evidence that any such comments were made as part of the Committee discussion.
In addition to investigating the allegations, the report included a review of practices and policies regarding Youth Centres. The report made several recommendations for Youth Services including:
Work is underway to improve these aspects of Council operations.
Upper Hunter Shire Council
PO Box 208, Scone NSW 2337
Ph: 02 6540 1100
Upper Hunter Shire Council is a local government authority and provides an extensive array of services including health and building; town planning; aged care; sporting and recreational facilities; roads; libraries; garbage collection; airport facilities; saleyards; public venues; water; children, youth and families and tourist information.