The latest spike in juvenile delinquency that has swept across Alice has a number of intersecting factors.
To say that it has nothing to do with the current CLP government abandoning support for the child outreach services that were in place before the last election is simply wrong. Of course that turning away contributed to children aimlessly roaming the streets with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Their decision showed poor judgement, and it is to be hoped that they come to their senses and reinstate, on a permanent basis, at least the Youth Hub at the base of Anzac Hill.
It’s also true to say that while vigilante action is a very dangerous two-edged sword, in the recent situation with children out of control and the police caught on the back foot, it was the right thing to do. I applaud the initiative shown by Gary Hall and his supporters. They applied an effective short-term fix to an immediate problem. It worked. The kids scattered, and the rocks stayed on the ground.
While the Easter Lightning Carnival provided the setting, I think it would be shortsighted to abandon it. Traeger Park looms on the horizon of footy-playing community kids like the MCG. They want their moment in the sun, and Alice can provide it. The memory of first running out onto a good field to compete in front of a big crowd from all around the area will stay with them forever. Let’s not deny them that.
The police are not to blame. Whatever else they were doing when this latest storm broke, they were not sitting on their backsides doing nothing.
A bit of foresight and preemptive action out on the communities on the part of the Australian Football League Central Australia could be beneficial. It certainly wouldn’t hurt. But the problem lies deeper than once-a-year footy visitors. Will the police tell us, once the dust has settled, how many of the kids caught in the current sweep came into town for the footy, and how many were already here?
After the rain now falling, it will probably get cold. The kids will disappear, and Elferink will claim his big stick approach worked. But we need committed youth funding, not reactive political posturing. And besides, how many of the rock throwers were already in care? Once again the pollies are seen to be a day late and a dollar short.
We live in hope. Maybe next year will be better. I certainly hope it contains an Easter Lightning Carnival.