Teens and alcohol
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Youth C.A.N. launches into action



By Annie Mintern, Alcohol Culture Change Project Officer from Horsham Rural City Council

Contact: [email protected]

Growing up in a country area isn’t quite the same as growing up in the suburbs or city- they're entirely different experiences of childhood, both environmentally and socially. 

I’m Annie Mintern, the Project Officer for Youth C.A.N. (Changing Alcohol Norms). I live in Horsham, a country town in Western Victoria, almost halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide. It’s a beautiful region surrounded by natural assets – 30 minutes from the Grampians National Park, Little Desert National Park and Mt Arapiles State Park, but there aren’t many social or entertainment options to keep young people occupied. 

It’s pretty quiet most of the time, as though my town appreciates the calming sound of silence. The only times it ever gets loud is during a rare community event or when people have parties or small gatherings.

In the early stages of the Youth C.A.N. project we spoke to 115 Horsham teenagers and were surprised to hear that just under half (48%) said that drinking to the point of getting drunk is a normal part of small gatherings. Almost all of them (95%) responded that the main aim of parties was to get drunk.

We also found some fascinating gendered differences in drinking patterns. Females were more likely to ‘pre-load’, choose higher strength drinks and cease drinking earlier in the night. By contrast, male teens were more likely to choose lower strength drinks and drink for longer periods of time.

With support from VicHealth and Federation University at Horsham Rural City Council, we’re aiming to reduce the pressure to drink, provide alternatives to high-risk drinking and to shift the perception that the purpose of parties and gatherings is to drink excessively. After all, there is plenty of fun to be had without having to drink too much.

We’ve embedded co-design throughout all stages of Youth C.A.N., including the concept, formative research, consultation with our youth advisory group, and everything along the way.

We’ve hit some major milestones recently, including our project brand and launch event.

Design-a-logo competition

We kicked off the project with a design-a-logo competition for Horsham teenagers. Our offer to teen amateur designers was a chance to lend their talent to the local community for a good cause, improve their skills and gain some exposure by having their logo selected and used throughout the remaining 18 months of the project.

We put the design brief to teens via local schools, media, and our project partners who include Nexus Youth Services and Headspace. Teens responded with over 30 logo entries. 

The Youth C.A.N. youth advisory group took on the difficult task of assessing these submissions. Paris Fiedler from Horsham College’s year eight VisCom class was selected as the winner.
Not only was this a fantastic opportunity to reach out to the local community but we now have a project brand designed by community for community.

Kannamaroo Festival – project launch

Not long after the logo competition wrapped up we shifted our attention to the project launch event at the Kannamaroo Festival on 25 November 2017.

The launch was a great opportunity for teens, parents, and members of the community to find out about the project while having fun trying out hip-hop dancing, practising handball target and participating in a colour powder war.

Teenager breakdancing

Hip-hop dancing at Kannamaroo Festival
Photo credit: Paul Carracher from The Weekly Advertiser.



Teens participating in a colour run

Colour powder wars at Kannamaroo Festival

Over 150 teens attended the event and with support from the research team at Federation University. We took the opportunity to collect the project’s baseline data through a short survey on iPads. These insights will allow us to have a greater understanding of the projects impact, and possibly assist us to access more funding for the community into the future.

Over the coming 18 months, Youth C.A.N. will continue to focus on working with teenagers to develop and deliver a suite of projects including an arts and theatre performance program, a social media campaign, consolidation of school curriculum to ensure consistent messages about alcohol are shared, a parent network and explore alternatives to drinking for fun and connection in Horsham.

Kids posing in a photo booth

Photobooth at Kannamarro Festival
Banner photo credit: Paul Carracher from The Weekly Advertiser.


Watch the project video here

About the author

Annie Mintern

Annie is responsible for leading the Youth CAN project as part of the VicHealth Alcohol Cultural Change Initiative. Annie has extensive experience in event management with a focus on youth related activities. 

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