In October 1988, my parents, Jim and Susan Porter, with four little girls in tow, headed towards the Southern Hemisphere to Australia to give us better opportunities and a better life.
There were many who questioned their intentions, their loyalty and more importantly, their ease of ability to just “pack up and go”. It wasn’t easy.
We suffered the inevitable, no house, no money, no family, and no friends. We stayed with some ‘Aussie’ friends until my dad got work. He then saved enough to afford to rent a house.
The rest, they say “is history” and we have all gone on to do amazingly well, each and every one of us.
Whilst I could list the achievements and successes Australia has given us, I won’t, because I have something greater on my mind. Something that has bothered me since the minute I left, then returned, then left the great City of Derry again.
One question that I wish someone would answer. What is happening to the young people of a town that represents my youth?
My mind instantly floods with beautiful, happy memories of growing up in Elaghmore Park, Galliagh; a place where children played blissfully in the streets with footballs, swung around lamp-posts on ropes and slid innocently down icy streets on Quality Street tin lids.
Where it was safe enough for young girls to knock on house doors to “take your baby for a walk” and go door-to door singing Christmas carols.
Whilst I may be 16,000 kilometres away (10,000 miles) my heart, soul and mind, is always in Derry, the place of my birth, my hometown.
It bothers me that the topic dominating conversations right now is suicide, and the keywords, ‘Drugs’, ‘Alcohol’ and ‘Depression’.
Youth suicide has risen 70% in the past decade, one of the highest rates in Europe. Derry City is in crisis right now, and it shouldn’t take the tragic loss of Collette Quigley’s son Andrew to highlight this. I recently read that “buying drugs in Derry is as easy as buying chocolate”, which not only saddens me, but horrifies me to the point that I couldn’t be more grateful that my parents took us out of there. Is this the place I’d want my children growing up? No thanks.
The burning question now is ‘when will something be done?”. When will the leaders and politicians act? Hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent creating a ‘City of Culture’ to attract tourists worldwide, but not enough is being spent on preventing it from becoming the ‘City of Death’.
It’s time to provide the funds for Derry City to establish a detox facility and the support network to help our youth exorcise the demons of destruction destroying lives and regain their will to live.
The world is watching, let’s make a change. It’s ironic that the keywords are all ‘D’ words- ‘Derry’‘Drugs’, ‘Drink’ and ‘Depression’. Well here’s another D word (or two) - do something, before it’s too late and more mothers lose their children.
l Deirdre Porter is a freelance feature writer based in Melbourne,