Inside Glen Innes' youth centre six months on

Liam Gabriel and Adam Jolly make cheese toasties at the Glen Innes youth centre. Picture: Andrew Messenger.

Liam Gabriel and Adam Jolly make cheese toasties at the Glen Innes youth centre. Picture: Andrew Messenger.

Four kids of about 12 sit on bean bags playing Spiderman on a console beneath a sign that reads "your vibe attracts your tribe".

Others help an adult make cheese toasties in a kitchen. (They're excellent)

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" a sign asks them.

Still more sit on a couch hanging around with their mates. "I can do anything I set my mind to."

It's one of the loudest places I think I've ever been, though apparently Thursday is a quiet day. Where once it was one or two Glen kids today there are maybe 20 kids in the small building. "Organised chaos" one volunteer helper called it.

Brittany Norley, Carlie Donnelly, Ryan King and Sam Chaffee enjoy the Glen Innes youth booth.


Billed as a place for the town's young to help blow off steam, the $300,000 centre was devised in the aftermath of a series of 2018 youth suicides and self-harm incidents in Glen Innes. But it was never intended as a trauma centre.

Instead it's simply a place where kids can be kids.

Brittany Norley, Carlie Donnelly, Ryan King and Sam Chaffee.

Brittany Norley, Carlie Donnelly, Ryan King and Sam Chaffee.

And the idea has been a popular one, at least with its target audience.

"We've gone from only having a few youth attend to now we get 30 most days," said youth worker Carli; she says between air conditioning, her baking and other blatant bribes they keep coming back.

"It gives them an opportunity to hang out with their friends and have some adult influence, adult supervision if their parents might not be home."

Lucas Holt, 13, has seen the centre grow up. He said he was surprised to see the place grow so quickly in just six months.

But he knew exactly which people have made it a success: Carli and her volunteer helpers.

The young Glen Innes boy said he even recommends the centre to other people his age.

Brittany Norley has been coming to the Youth Booth since day one.

"It's like a safe place. It's supposed to be quiet," she joked - that's a write-off. But she still keeps coming back.

Carli said the centre is a place for everyone.

"I don't know everybody's background," she said.

"They don't come in and say this is who I am and this is what my circumstances are.

"They come in and there's no judgement. We just treat them all the same."

The rules are clear and pretty lenient. No drugs, no alcohol, no bullying or harassment, show respect, don't swear, pay for equipment if you damage it and no graffiti.

Outside that there's only a limited amount of structured activities; mostly it's up to the individual.

The kids often head down to King's gym, and PCYC has runs activities out of the Youth Booth. They had a swimming pool day once.

Moree mental health offers a one-monthly activity afternoon, and the centre works hard to make sure the kids know they have someone to talk to if they need it.

And three volunteers help keep an eye out and sometimes act as mentors to the town's youth - and they're always looking for more.

But outside that - organised chaos.

"We're still finding our feet, we're still thinking of ways to improve and we're still getting ideas," Carli said.

"Every month that goes by we getting new ideas and we get more feedback.

"I think it's just going to continue to go up from here."

She's just weeks away from having her own child, and will take paternity leave.

But the centre is worth keeping going, she said.

"The youth love it and they're getting positive attitudes out of it."