Tomaree Youth Community Action folds after 20 empowering years

LEGACY: TYCA founder Sally Dover with the original concept plans for the youth centre in Salamander Bay which were never realised.
LEGACY: TYCA founder Sally Dover with the original concept plans for the youth centre in Salamander Bay which were never realised.

After more than 20 years of 'empowering youth to fulfil their potential', the Tomaree Youth Community Action (TYCA) group has folded.

Its demise means that the Tomaree peninsula has been left without a youth resource centre to cater for children and teenagers in areas outside of sport, such as the arts, music, recreation and personal development.

Some of TYCA's most successful events during the past two decades have included their annual Youth Week skate competitions, which attracted in excess of 300 people, and the hugely popular snak'n'rap days held across the LGA, which would "bring the youth together to have a skate, a sausage sandwich and a chat".

For TYCA founder and former Port Stephens east ward councillor Sally Dover, the end which was ratified at a meeting held on Friday night was "disappointing but a sign of the times".

"I guess the needs and wants of youth change and we have really struggled to entice young people to the committee and keep them interested in events," she said.

"Of course COVID hasn't helped, in fact the lockdowns have made it impossible for us to conduct any events over the past two years.

"We had to cancel our Youth Week skate comp for the second year running in April, deciding instead to run a virtual competition this year but it failed to get widespread support."

Mrs Dover, who is leaving the Port Stephens area after 34 years to be closer to family on the south coast, said it was a difficult decision to shut down TYCA.

She represented east ward for 13 years on Port Stephens Council , serving six of them as deputy mayor, and while on council she had the opportunity to support the establishment of an International Women's Day scholarship in 2018.

"It was agreed at our final meeting to hand council back the money it had provided for the skate comp and the remining funds will go to COPSY, as per our constitution."

TYCA started when a small group of concerned members from the Christian Outreach Centre at Salamander Bay recognised the need to provide a skate park for local kids.

"Following a successful skate comp held in November 1999 at Anna Bay, a committee was formed and arranged with COC to use their auditorium as a skate venue, which would cater for more than 120 skaters," Mr Dover said.

"The Salamander Youth Resources Committee was established in July 2000 to continue and expand the work with cooperation from Port Stephens Council. The committee prepared plans and a proposal for an indoor skate park to be built near Tomaree Pool was presented to council on August 2, 2000."

The plans remained dormant for a decade before TYCA was incorporated on June 8, 2010.

"A notice of motion was lodged on that date requesting council investigate the allocation of land in Aquatic Close for a youth centre," Ms Dover said.

"Despite the years of TYCA members working with the youth of Port Stephens, the council remained unresponsive to the proposal for a youth centre."

Mrs Dover said that she renewed her push for a centre during a public access address to the council on May 22, 2018.

"The only response from council was an email dated November 13, 2018, pointing out that the Tomaree sports complex masterplan included a site for a building but not specifying its use ... depending on what funding could be obtained."

The $3.2 million building is currently under construction.

Outgoing president Avril Saunders said that it was a tough decision, but one that had to be made.

"It has been a tough two years with COVID making it difficult for us to run events and attract new volunteers. Sally has been a pillar for the group and with her moving on we thought it was the right time to disband," she said.

Clinton Bridge, Port Stephens Council's community and recreation coordinator, said that the facility featured accessible amenities, change rooms, storage rooms, canteen, referees room, first aid and a meeting and event space

"It includes a large space for functions and events and a smaller meeting room which can be used by sporting committees and youth services."

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