Youth violence can be reduced through community investment

1 July 2009

Community-led programs are proving successful in reducing pathways to youth violence in Victoria and the United States, according to a Deakin University health psychology professor.

Professor John Toumbourou is calling on the Victorian State Government to maintain support for programs, such as Communities That Care that has been successfully running in the Mornington Peninsula Shire.

"Funding communities to prevent youth violence and crime is an excellent investment, but requires long-term support," Professor Toumbourou said.

Professor Toumbourou has recently been involved in the evaluation of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Communities That Care process.

"Mornington Peninsula Shire has been successfully implementing the Communities That Care process since 2002," he said.

"Large youth survey reports were completed across the municipality in 2002 and then repeated in 2008. The results show that the community achieved reductions in a number of key risk factors that influence violence including lower alcohol and drug use and family conflict.

"Given adequate support this community is set to go against the current state-wide trend and reduce community rates of youth violence."

Mark Greenberg, Professor of Human Development and Psychology at Pennsylvania State University and the Director of the Prevention Research Center, is currently visiting Australia to speak on the success of the Communities That Care program in Pennsylvania in the United States.

The Communities That Care process in Pennsylvania achieved state-wide reductions in adolescent violence and crime by assisting professionals and community residents to work together to implement evidence-based child and adolescent prevention programs within local communities. An important feature of the Pennsylvania success was a state government funding scheme that rewarded communities where they developed strong community prevention coalitions and evidence-based prevention plans.

"This large United States project demonstrates the potential to reduce youth violence through state government funding for community prevention," Professor Toumbourou said.


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