By ERWIN CHLANDA
An experienced local youth worker, Matty Day, says there may well be children in Alice Springs who are denied the necessities of life by their parents or carers – a criminal offence.
He says he does not feel qualified to comment on legal aspects but, when asked by the Alice Springs News Online, described what he has observed in the streets over several years.
Police have not answered questions from the News about how many parents and carers have been prosecuted for it.
Assistant Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker has said “we have and do charge people with [this] offence” but we received no response to this follow-up question: “How many people in Central Australia, in the past five years, have been charged by police for failing to provide children with the necessities of life; and what have been the results of these charges (if any).”
The News understands there have been no prosecutions. Many members of the public have commented, in this publication or elsewhere, that in their view parents should be held to account for their children’s care, and their conduct.
What’s more, Mr Day says many of the children involved are actually in the care of the government.
He says many children are “highly mobile” and are not in a “sustainable living situation”.
They are “denied the safety of the home” and are in the streets, including late at night, because they feel safer there.
In fact this “may lead to the opposite, make them unsafe, exposed to negative behaviour: “They are not getting a reasonable level of support.”
Says Mr Day (pictured): “Kids are exposed to a lot of heavy drinking, violence, substance abuse, drugs, ganga smoking.
“Quite often younger kids are accessing that stuff, seeing everybody getting charged up. They are copying that behaviour.
“This leads to excessive risk taking, and to aggressive, criminal and sexualised behaviour.”
Lately over-consumption of high energy drinks has emerged as a new way of getting high, and so has sniffing of deodorant aerosols.
Mr Day says: “The courts, judging whether children are being denied the necessities of life, would need to be given evidence from people close to the children and the support services working with them. This is why we need the eyes and ears in the night. There is no point in having only child support workers knocking off at 4.21.”
Possibly all children put into care are there because of being denied the necessities of life, yet no-one is brought to book for it.
Mr Day says the withdrawal by the government of youth workers and professional departmental officers in the Youth Street Outreach Service (YSOS), and then replacing them with police, has exacerbated the situation: “Children are running away from police, while previously they were happy to talk with the YSOS team,” he says.
“And the longer the kids are in the street, the more likely they are to adopt bad behaviour, and the harder it is to get them back”.
By ERWIN CHLANDA