Vacation care

Vacation care with a twist ... hip hop dancers show off their moves at the Ted Noffs Foundation, which is running its first school holiday program at Mount Druitt this summer with classes including beat boxing and budgeting. Photo: Edwina Pickles

JUSTIN MUNZER, a teenage rapper, describes the Ted Noffs Foundation's Street University as ''like school but only with subjects you really love''.

The 15-year-old student, who is from Sydney's west, has been perfecting his craft at the university's Mount Druitt campus and will participate in its inaugural summer holiday program this year.

The manger of the Mount Druitt Street University, Julie Dubuc, said the vacation care program grew out of demand from young people in the area.

''Usually over the holiday period a lot of services wind down,'' she said.

''There is not as much available to the young people at a time they need it most.''

With school breaking up this week, thousands of students will be looking for something to do. While for some young people holidays can mean a beach break or maybe an overseas trip, for disadvantaged children it can be six weeks of boredom.

Figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show juvenile crime rates spike over the warmer months, with summer being the peak time for assaults, malicious damage and offensive conduct.

Such problems often stem from a lack of alternative activities, according to Dr Christopher Lennings, a psychologist and academic at the University of Sydney.

''Young people are more likely to become involved in crime over summer because they have a long period [with] less routine and less structure,'' he said.

''The days are longer, they are out more and they have less supervision. In the absence of routine and structure, criminal activity is more likely. When young people get bored or have no structure to their day, that's when they are at higher risk of engaging in crime.''

Ms Dubuc agreed, saying the summer holiday program would provide a positive alternative for young people in an area which lacks youth services.

Catering mainly to teenagers, the program includes classes in urban music, break dancing, photography and filmmaking. A program for indigenous young people includes bush skills and beach trips. All activities are free.

The indigenous program manager, Aaron Saunders, who was raised in Mount Druitt, also bemoaned the lack of activities for young people, saying the street university, which opened at the beginning of the year, was filling a huge demand.

Randy Glazer, who volunteers as a music facilitator at the centre, will spend the summer break running workshops for young people.

''We call it rhythm and reform,'' he said. ''We use the music program to counsel the kids. We get them on a path to positivity through the music.''