WITH police-run Blue Light dance parties in Victoria facing an uncertain future due to changes in practises, Warrnambool’s police chief has declared the city’s popular events will continue.
Warrnambool police division superintendent Don Downes yesterday guaranteed the social events, held four times a year and which attract up to 600 mainly primary school-aged children, would remain a feature of local youth entertainment.
“We have really strong Blue Light dance parties across the south-west in most of the major towns and we are committed to continue support for the program,” Superintendent Downes said.
“Our members go to events off duty as well as on duty.
“We provide security for parents and friends and a good safe environment for the youth who participate.
“It’s all about developing and strengthening relationships and partnerships.
“In the last couple of years we have doubled our youth resource officers. We now have four officers dedicated to interacting with youth.
“Having been a participant in the discos myself, I see great benefits.
“There may be adjustments but the discos are very successful and I’m committed to seeing them continuing,” he said.
The next Warrnambool Blue Light dance party is scheduled for Friday, March 28, and there were fears it could be the last held in Warrnambool.
Blue Light chief executive officer Ivan Ray said Victoria Police announced a change in policy after 38 years of the events.
He said the Victoria Police hierarchy had delegated the decision for police involvement in Blue Light activities to area commanders, which meant local managers could be placed in the impossible situation of deciding if rostered police should spend their shift at the dances or man a divisional van.
Mr Ray said the direction to remove time-in-lieu provisions, which had been in operation for more than 30 years, made no sense and would achieve a net loss of manpower hour availability at a greater cost.
The dance parties, previously known as discos, aim to provide safe, alcohol and drug-free entertainment for young people where they can interact with police in a positive way.
The Warrnambool events are manned by ambulance officers, teachers and other volunteers and are usually held on a Friday night between 7pm and 9pm in the week before the end of each school term at the Wannon Park function rooms.
The events have been back running for about eight years after a lengthy break and generally attract 300 children, who pay an entry fee of $5.
The events usually raise more than $1000 and the Warrnambool Blue Light committee has previously run junior citizen awards in local primary schools and provided funding for safety signage.
Due to a healthy bank balance the committee had planned to expand its program to include visits to the Halls Gap zoo and a Blue Light camp for two children from each primary school while also considering donations to the Warrnambool Base Hospital children’s ward.