By ERWIN CHLANDA
An announcement by Families Minister Dale Wakefield (pictured) about a new Youth Outreach Centre does not refer to detaining delinquent children against their will but for their own safety.
She commented about these issues in an interview published in the Alice Springs News Online on May 17 when she said, in part: “There will be kids who need to go into a detention centre. We don’t have rose-coloured glasses on this.
“We need the interim steps … make sure bail is achievable and we get them back on the right track.
“If that doesn’t happen we need rehabilitation-focussed detention centres that are about making kids better, not worse.”
Her media release this morning said the centre will “provide support and services for young people to get them on the right path and break the cycle of crime” and will be “a hub for services aimed at diverting kids off our streets and on to a better path”.
The centre will focus “on diversion and rehabilitation strategies to reduce re-offending and stop crime before it happens”.
The News is seeking clarification whether participation is purely optional for children or will be enforced when they are at risk.
This week’s town council meeting discussed the Youth Patrol bus service run by the council and Congress. Councillors asked how many children, after being taken home, went back into the streets again during the night.
Ms Wakefield was in the public gallery during the council meeting but did not take part in the discussion.
She says 13 new Youth Outreach Workers and support staff will provide “a safe, friendly environment for youth”.
The site, on the corner of Railway Terrace and Wills Terrace, is currently undergoing refurbishments to create safe meeting rooms, open plan office space and some recreational areas, says Ms Wakefield, starting operations in July.
“Consultation is currently underway with NGOs and police to determine what services will be offered from the site.
“We’re working with the youth sector to co-locate other services at this site and streamline how we work with young people so that we have skilled, specialist staff working together.
“This isn’t just about having fun activities on a weekend. It’s about offering meaningful support services that focus on rehabilitation and getting kids at-risk of offending or on bail on track to a life away from crime.”
Ms Wakefield says the government’s funding for “the historic overhaul of the youth justice system” will include an additional $6m a year for NGOs to deliver evidence-based diversion programs and $11.5m to provide new bail support accommodation in Alice Springs “to improve bail accountability and provide kids with a safe place to go”.
By ERWIN CHLANDA