Disgust, shame -- Murwillumbah teen speaks out against a group of her peers

By SAMANTHA HEALY

IT takes guts to speak out about the disgraceful behaviour of your peers, but 16-year-old Nicole Heffernan has had enough.

Ms Heffernan, a Murwillumbah schoolgirl, contacted the Daily News after witnessing a fight between teens during last Friday night's Banana Festival celebrations, saying alcohol use is rife amongst young people in the shire. "I am disgusted and ashamed of the youth of Murwillumbah," Ms Heffernan said. "I went down to enjoy the Banana Festival on Friday night and was shocked to see the behaviour of young people."

Her admission comes in the wake of constant calls from local residents for more police and resources to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour issues, and a push by Murwillumbah businesses and prominent community leaders for CCTV cameras to be installed. And the Tweed Heads Police Association continues to battle with the government for more police on the ground.

On Wednesday the Daily News reported local police were fuming after receiving no new police officers from the latest NSW Police College graduation class.

Ms Heffernan said she was walking in Main Street on Friday night with a friend when a fight broke out and stayed to check on the victim's welfare. "I asked the male if he was okay and he replied with an unbelievable, 'yes'," Ms Heffernan said. "The youth of Murwillumbah need to grow up and finsox something better to do with their time."

Ms Heffernan said it was believed one youth threw a beer bottle at a passing car.

The driver got out to confront the bottle thrower and was headbutted.

"That was the last straw for me," Ms Heffernan said. "I'm not sure if the police saw what happened, if they did they didn't do anything, but I think it was over before they got there.

"To be fair I think the Murwillumbah police do a great job, but unfortunately there is a negative perception towards police by young people.

But what I saw on Friday night made me so angry."

Ms Heffernan is just one of a growing number of young people speaking out about the "loutish" stereotype a minority of young people are per-petuating. Earlier this year three teens shed light on what it is like to be a young person on the Tweed, and another spoke out about the gangs prowling the shire.

During the Banana Festival, police issued a number of fines to people caught drinking alcohol in a public place, and a number of people were "moved on". At least one 15-year-old was caught with alcohol.

Sergeant Peter Miller of Tweed Heads police said at this stage no assaults or malicious damage could be solely attributed to Banana Festival crowds.

"We (Tweed/Byron LAC) are not the only ones with these sorts of problems," Sgt Miller said. "We are not an isolated case." Violence is just one of a number of problems tarnishing the image of young people on the Tweed. According to Ms Heffernan, alcohol, drug use and promiscuity, sometimes excessive, is known to go on in youth circles.

"I'm not going to say I am completely innocent, no-one is, but I am sick of seeing young people getting hurt or hurting others," she said.

"Some of my friends may be annoyed (that I spoke out) but it has to start somewhere.'

"You will never 100 per cent fix the problems but if nothing gets done the problem will get worse."

Ms Heffernan says boredom is one of the biggest issues in the Tweed. "There isn't a lot to do around here," Ms Heffernan said.

"It may or may not help, but at least if their were more things to do it would take away the excuses. No-one could say they had nothing to do."

Over the past few months, young people have called for more activities in the Tweed. Residents have called for more police and resources to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour issues.

In Murwillumbah, businesses, prominent community members and police have pushed for CCTV cameras to be installed, while the Tweed Heads Police Association has battled with the government for more police on the ground.

On Wednesday the Daily News, local police were fuming after receiving no new police officers from the latest Police College graduation class.



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