Two week boot camp not enough to solve youth problems


A 15 day boot camp as apparently proposed by Correctional Services Minister John Elferink would be of little value.
That is the view of a member of the town council who, together with long-time youth worker Graham Ross, has been planning for years to set up a residential facility out bush for young people in trouble.
Cr Steve Brown says he has discussed government plans with Mr Ross who had attended a public meeting called recently by Mr Elferink.
Mr Brown says some youths may benefit from short stay at camps, mostly “fist time offenders and somewhat rebellious teenagers” but “in the main this style of short term camp will not in any way address our current issues with neglected youths”.
Mr Brown says what benefit would there be in “picking up a neglected kid, whose normal existence is on the streets, taking him or her away for 15 days of well structured, well fed, intense military style training in a boot camp, and then returning the child to the streets?
“I understand that the intentions are good, and for a few kids this may very well be successful, but for the rest it goes like this: Alone, hungry, neglected, bored … a suddenly new adventure, food, hard work, community care, excitement, possibilities … sudden return to alone, hungry, neglect, realisation of no community care, let down, despair, anger, payback!
“The neglected children of our town and region need full time, caring, custodial care, from the time they are picked up until the day we send a responsible young adult to their first place of employment.
“Even onwards from that time with supported youth hostel accommodation that allows a place of residence away from the peer pressures of a previous existence.
“Until we as a community have the good sense and care, to take on and construct facilities that will support this kind of care, we the community will suffer the compounding effects of an escalating youth crisis,” says Cr Brown.
“The kids on the streets will suffer a calamity!”
PHOTO: Graham Ross (at left) and Cr Brown at the site in the Larapinta Valley where they hope to establish a camp for young people in trouble.


  1. Greetings. You are more than welcome to do a story on me if you want. I have read with interest all the stories about youth at risk, running amok in Alice. I am an expert.
    By the age of 15 I had been and spent time in six New Zealand boys’ homes. By the age of 22 I had been locked up in 7seven New Zealand prisons, even a maximum security cell. By the age of 26 I’d spent time in five New Zealand mental hospitals and lots of drug and alcohol rehab centres.
    In 1981 at the age of 26 I walked into a Christian church full of born again Christians and was converted to Jesus Christ.
    I have not touched alcohol for over 31 years and three months. I have never re-offended or been locked up in any way for all those years. I have spent those years communicating to people like me who want to listen.
    I have a YouTube clip called prison to pulpit the Kevin Mudford Story. Please feel free to check out. I am at present at Alice Springs. Feel free if you want a good true story from the other side.
    Kind regards, Kevin Mudford, telephone 0459 630723.

  2. Until you adequately fund an intensive youth case management service to do the hard yards with some of these young people little will change, Boot camps don’t solve the problems, the young person still needs to return to their families afterwards, and that’s where you need the long term investment commitment.

  3. Before we start a panic amongst traditional owners, the site pictured is no longer an option. We discussed establishing our proposed Youth Camp there some years ago. Unfortunately agreement could not be reached with traditional owners for a lease on this site.
    It is one of the many locations for which we have attempted to get support from traditional owners and which finally led to our conclusion that we needed to look to the Territory Government for support, hopefully with a lease to an area close to town on the now Territory Government owned Owen Springs Station.

  4. Shiver me timbers. I am flummoxed again.
    Once more I have to admit that Steve may have gotten it substantially right.
    As Steve and Graham, and also Tony (Posted February 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm) all reckon, unless appropriate aftercare is also adequately resourced for the young people coming out of these camps, and the right mix of qualified and experienced workers are able to be recruited and retained to provide the aftercare (or throughcare, as current jargon would have it), then the whole difficult, expensive exercise of providing productive wilderness camps for young offenders and other young people with problems, will be mostly a large waste of time and money.
    These kids are not easy work. The ratio of experienced, highly skilled workers to clients may have to be as high as one worker to every one or two young people in the most difficult cases, depending on their needs.
    The aftercare often needs to consist of continuing intensive therapy and practical supports by highly skilled practitioners, including intensive work with key family members, as well as provision of appropriate accommodation.
    At present Alice Springs has a severe shortage of the professional staff who are sufficiently qualified, suitably experienced, available when needed to provide these services, and employed to provide it.
    So the question is: does the NT government aim to also fill this vacuum of specialised aftercare services for the damaged youth?
    If not, then Attorney-General Elferink’s project may in reality be about to shovel more of the tax payers’ scarce dollars into the large and red-hot furnace of good but unproductive and misguided intentions.

  5. Steve, Janet recently accused me of “screaming for more funding” which, I pointed out, was news to me, so your call for $30m for a youth centre and now an uncosted proposal for an expensive youth boot camp is difficult to reconcile with claims emanating from your own camp.
    However, wouldn’t it be better if you came on board the alcohol restriction wagon and tried to save some money that could then perhaps be directed to the obviously sincere youth projects that you are trying to get up?
    A floor price, for a start, would cost hardly anything to put in place and it would begin to save lives as well as big dollars in the health and justice budgets (See my story ‘Reasons for a Health Pact in the NT’).
    The AMSAANT CEO, John Patterson has already proposed this.
    Surely, you could agree with the recent success of restriction measures during the AFL weekend. Your considerable energies would be well-placed with those of us who are aligning ourselves with the national push for alcohol reform.
    Even though this appears to go against your political ideologies, John Paterson notes that a bi-partisan pact is in the best interests of Territorians and I’m sure that you are in that camp.

  6. @ Michael: Yeh I have to agree with you Michael, I’m not exactly a thing of beauty LOL. That aside, Michael, the really sad thing about this photo and many others is that you aren’t in it. Where have you been?

  7. @7 … You were in five mental hospitals and after walking into a church full of born again Christians converted to Jesus Christ. That figures, but while it may help a person with mental illness Kevin, it probably won’t help most of the dis-engaged youths we have in Central Australia.

  8. Unbelievable! Now we may need one uni graduate on many thousands of dollars a year salary for every two children, or sometimes for every child, to do what all that family and culture and country couldn’t do. That is, to raise a child. And this before the full effects of foetal alcohol kick in.
    How wrong can it get?
    Meanwhile, is the baby bonus still being paid? I hope so. At least we can offer jobs to all our uni graduates.

  9. Hal (Posted February 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm) you are right: it is difficult to imagine how much worse things can get, at least in some regards.
    This is true not only in relation to resolving problems facing (and presented by) a large cohort of marginalised and disengaged, poorly educated and highly alienated young people, who are often increasingly angry and uncontrollable for their parents and youth workers alike.
    It is also accurate to make such an assertion about the neglected needs of many very young children, whose rights for better chances in life at the early developmental phase (pre-natal, post-natal and the first few years of life prior to primary school) are being neglected.
    These early years are in fact the preventative phase in terms of minimising the likelihood of many serious problems in the young teenage years as well as later in life.
    Let us hope that we don’t wait for more unacceptable crimes and threatening behaviours to occur before our governments decide to act decisively to put into place the systems that are needed to short circuit these cycles of dysfunction.
    For the sake of our town’s future in decades to come, we need immediately to make much greater investment in home visitation schemes by skilled early childhood nurses, and also in professionally trained pre-school teachers in all remote communities right now.
    It is looking like some long term planning in related areas is beginning to occur: the Commonwealth is making major efforts in the realms of school attendance (through Stronger Futures) and enabling greater numbers of the young unemployed to transfer from inter-generational welfare into working lives (the Remote Jobs and Communities Program, which is due to start later this year).
    However, given our large inherited burden of failure to deal successfully with these needs in the past thirty or forty years (part of the bi-partisan government neglect and simplistic policy contradictions exemplified by the mess which masqueraded as the “self-determination” and “self-management” eras, but which was in many respects more often undermining the possibility of actual self-determination), we now have to cope with the inevitable consequences of this neglect and failure.
    Thus the need for these expensive but necessary “multi-systemic intensive therapies” for an increasing number of young people who are coming to the attention of the health, police and justice systems.
    This was well illustrated by the several groups of young teenagers who were removed from Alice Springs for weeks of evaluation and intensive interventions (in Darwin and in camps and other settings out bush in central Australia) between April and August last year. Unfortunately for some of these young people, and society as a whole, the needed intensive work was not always able to continue after these relatively brief intensive interventions finished.
    Greater funding is urgently needed to create the capacity in Alice Springs for such intensive therapies to be provided on an ongoing basis for those young people most in need of them in central Australia. Elferink’s “boot camps” need this assistance if they are to be even minimally effective, but even more so these services must be provided for at least some of the people coming out of the “boot camps”, for periods approaching one to two years in certain cases.
    At present, such services are simply not available at anything like the levels required, and this is a very serious shortcoming in our array of basic, fundamentally important services.


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