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HomeIssue 8Yuendumu break-ins: culprits are small children

Yuendumu break-ins: culprits are small children

p2370-bush-kids-generic-450By KIERAN FINNANE
Over the last month children aged eight to 10 have been involved in four break-ins at Yuendumu, the Warlpiri community north-west of Alice Springs, visited last week by the Royal Commission into Child Protection and Youth Detention in the Northern Territory.
Elders at a public meeting with the Royal Commission spoke of the difficulty in controlling children, when parents are no longer allowed, under white law, to discipline them physically.
The series of break-ins have been confirmed by police.
A worker in the community – a reliable source speaking on condition of not being named – told the Alice Springs News Online that the premises broken into were those of non-government organisations (NGOs). The break-ins occurred mostly at night, with the children nimble at evading police and night patrol.
Although offices were surrounded with fences, the children managed to climb over them or dig underneath. Once inside they smashed windows, damaged cars, and in one office, says the worker, they set light to files.
p2373-bush-kid-drink-generiAccording to Central Desert Division Superintendent Neil Hayes, both commercial and residential buildings were targeted, with unspecified “damage” caused in one incident. In other incidents the children took small items, including food.
A number of offenders, all youth aged eight to 10,  have been identified, says Supt Hayes, while other matters remain under investigation.
“Given their ages, no formal prosecutions have been commenced. There has been strong engagement between the police, victims, youths and their families.
“NT Police are part of a multi-agency response to divert young offenders away from these actions in the future,” says Supt Hayes.
Among those agencies is the Yuendumu Mediation and Justice Committee. Its coordinator, Rhys Aconley-Jones, says in a two-hour meeting the children involved, all boys, resisted engaging with the process, leaving parents and stakeholders frustrated.
But the response won’t stop there. WYDAC (Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation) will continue to work with the children, trying to get them to think about what they’ve done and its impact, as well as getting them involved in more constructive activities, such as hunting or learning new skills.
The Alice News also questioned Supt Hayes about illicit drugs in the community. Elders expressed their concern about this to the Royal Commission, suggesting that the drugs are being brought in by outsiders and include Ice.
Supt Hayes says police receive information from time to time suggesting drugs are being brought into the community and have previously charged local residents in relation to drug matters.
He says they receive “anecdotal information” about drug use but to date have only been advised about or detected cannabis and alcohol.


  1. Dear Elders, Stop “expressing concern” when the cameras are on and start doing your jobs as leaders in the community. As an evolved civilization there is no need to resort to medieval punishments. There is a reason ‘old’ laws stay old and we develop new laws. I fully understand the need to remember and document these old traditional ways but they can’t still be in practice. For instance slavery, this was an old law changed for the better. No one is hanging around saying bring it back so we can control people better (apart from nutters).
    I believe we need more training and programs for parents! They need to take responsibility and understand what is involved with being a parent. Stop leaving kids with Grandparents and have some pride in your children.
    In saying that I know many people that do this, it is only the minority that appear to not.

  2. So now we have it. Out on the communities the women are violent, and the children are crims. And how do we get out of here? Too easy! Let’s blame it on the men. Better yet, let’s blame it on the white man.
    There is nothing quite so self-affirming as a circular argument.

  3. For one thing, I think people shouldn’t post on here unless they will use their name. It’s disingenuous.
    I don’t know why we think that Aboriginal parents have the monopoly on being hopeless parents. We certainly have a lot of young parents and poor home lives which influence kids to not want to be at home.
    To say that children are the responsibility of parents is very easy, but that is already the case. If the parents will not take responsibility, we will have a lost generation of kids who aren’t going to school and end up with no skills and no prospect of employment.
    If we don’t spend the money now on youth workers, we will pay much more later on when there are more people in gaol.

  4. No parental control. These kids come from the same environment as rock throwers.
    Parents are elsewhere entertaining and finding comfort in anti-social behavior in a town centre. The First Nations people are out of control.

  5. Up until recently the responsibility for Indigenous children was the government’s, remember?
    Remember when all the children were taken away cos they had one neglectful white parent?
    Remember when all Indigenous people were wards of the state?
    Ever wonder how you learn to be a parent when you have none and are brought up in a dormitory by often brutal strangers? Etc etc

  6. @ Penangke: Please explain the behaviors of the children that were not stolen. For example the many kids who are out of control in Yuendumu and everywhere else!

  7. Penangke is a prime example of the blame someone else attitude and not accept responsibility for one’s actions.

  8. I am sick and tired of the poor bugger me / passing the buck attitude from some members within our society.
    As for the parenting of these children the NT is one of the only places left in Australia where you can still smack a child (as per below) and there are a plenty in our community that need a good whack.
    11 – Power to impose domestic discipline:
    A person who may justifiably apply force to a child for the purposes of discipline, management or control may delegate that power either expressly or by implication to another person who has the custody or control of the child either temporarily or permanently and, where that other person is a school teacher of the child, it shall be presumed that the power has been delegated unless it is expressly withheld.


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