‘Drop in and take off’—this is the catchcry at Al’s Skate Co, an indoor skate park in Wodonga. It was my pleasure to drop in myself recently to hear of the incredible work they’re doing in the youth mental health space. Now, while I was probably the least cool person in the park—sorry!—I was still inspired by the important work and programs being done on youth engagement by Al Taylor and Shannon Dale. Al and Shannon have worked in youth mental health for many, many years and are really at the coalface. They are working with our young people right across the region. While skating is fun, it also acts as a vehicle to allow for self-focus, mindfulness and safe discussions.

Al’s Skate Co runs a range of programs for young people, parents who want to skate with their kids, defence kids, refugee groups and school groups. It also provides outreach skating events. Recently the Skate Co team launched How We Survive, a raw and honest documentary which breaks down the stigma of mental ill-health. I could not have been more impressed by the care and commitment to our young people at Al’s Skate Co. I congratulate Al, Shannon and their team for their terrific work and I thank all those young people who were so friendly to me. They tried to get me on a skateboard. While I think I’m generally a pretty well-balanced person, I didn’t show it on that particular day.

These places are all about normalising those discussions, making connections and supporting our young people as they struggle with life’s great challenges. And many of them did, indeed, have great challenges through the COVID lockdown, particularly those kids on the border and those kids who faced terrible outcomes after the bushfires. So thanks again to Al’s Skate Co. I had a marvellous time. Well done on your work.

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