If they were mayor for a day, they’d introduce an adult curfew – no, just kidding. In fact this group of young locals didn’t raise strong objections to a youth curfew. Asked to think about the pros and cons, they came up mostly with cons but certainly not howls of protest.
They were a dozen students from the town’s high schools – Centralian College, St Philip’s, OLSH and Yirara – involved in the Youth Desert Leadership Program. Yesterday’s workshop was hosted by Desert Knowledge Australia and the Alice Springs Town Council.
Some legitimate reasons for being out during curfew time were raised, such as early morning cycling training.
The main elements of the public debate were also put forward:
• children’s activities are their parents’ responsibility, not the government’s, nor the town’s;
• some young people don’t have safe homes, so the focus should be on that issue rather than a curfew;
• enforcing a curfew would be a waste of police time;
• a curfew would be a “violation of human rights” – this formulation made them all laugh.
The students were divided into three groups. Group One said they were “on the fence” on the curfew issue and pointed to some pros: if there were a curfew, there’d be a lot less young people on the streets, even though some would always be there. The reduction in numbers could help stop some of the problems, like fighting and rock-throwing, contributing to greater safety.
However, this group also thought Town Council CEO Rex Mooney, who was sitting at their table, had a point when he said a curfew would be hard to administer and that there are very few examples of functioning curfews in Australia.
This prompted a comment from Group Two that there may be other ways to deal with the problems, such as providing a place where young people can go, though the hours and style of operation of such a place was not detailed.
The overall impression was that the town is “pretty safe”, at night as well as in the day, though at night you needed to be “sensible”. Safety in Alice is much like that of towns anywhere, and some parts of town are safer than others. For example, the Golf Course Estate was considered to be safer than Northside. Lighting was seen as a factor in how safe an area is.
The council was also interested in this group’s views on what could make the CBD more attractive to young people.
Aerosol art was a suggestion from Group One. Group Two thought more art, not just aerosol and including sculpture, would help. Better buildings too, with more colour.
Public transport should operate for extended hours: it was pointed out that during the week public busses stop at 5.30pm, too early for young people pursuing activities after school. It was also said that there are “hardly any” busses on Saturday and none on Sundays.
There could be more entertainment. Group One noted the popularity of the ice-skating rink run over the last two summers but cancelled for this year – something like that would be good. Groups Two and Three had a more modest proposal: they wanted busking permits to be cheaper and easier to get.
Group Three wanted to see more markets in the mall and noted that night markets especially, with their line-up of local bands, attract young people.
This group also welcomed the proposed plans for redeveloping the mall, mentioning particularly that opening the northern end would bring more activity into the area.
Each group is working on a research project to present to the council. Group One is looking at the “negative graffiti” issue and whether the $100,000 a year being spent on cleaning it up could be put to better use, such as sanctioned graffiti art projects.
Group Two are working on promoting “cultural awareness”: “We do have a lot of culture in Alice Springs compared to other places.”
They are also proposing that a youth council be formed. This got Mayor Damien Ryan’s attention: he has been championing the idea since taking office but it has yet to get off the ground. He wanted to know how he should communicate his interest in the concept to local youth. They laughed: Facebook, of course! Old-fashioned approaches also had some support: posters at schools, visits to school assemblies.
Group Three want to petition the government to buy the vacant Melanka block to create a park that would become a hangout, including at night, with amphitheatre, events, art and sculpture.
Mayor Ryan pointed to the hefty price tag of that block and wanted them to think about an alternative venue. One suggestion was where the
old Mobil Palms service station used to be, another vacant lot, with the advantage of being near the existing youth service, Headspace.
Pictured above: Mayor Damien Ryan talks to youth leaders at yesterday’s workshop. From left they are Tyrell Swan, Russell Modlin (Yirara teacher), Naomi Ingamells and Rachel Dash.