GUEST COMMENT by STEVE BROWN
There are two parts to our juvenile delinquency story: The immediate and the long-term problemS.
On the short-term issue, what’s happening right now is – as usual – the result of on again, off again policing. We go through this cycle every 12 months or so, whenever there is an issue, loud cries see a rapid response which usually brings the immediate problem under control in very short order.
The trouble is that both through a lack of resources and a transfer system, those who successfully manage the moment are moved away, and the concentrated policing action quickly falls away.
To break that policing cycle, we need a sustained management effort.
Of course it’s not just all about police, although it usually falls upon them to head the effort, which also encompasses youth agencies, children and family services and housing, amongst others.
To make sure these usually successful efforts don’t drop away I believe we should appoint a community board whose role is to oversee and constantly monitor the effort, taking reports from community, reporting to appropriate Ministers and issuing “please explains” to recalcitrant government agencies. This will serve to flatten out the policing issue but it will not deal with the root cause of the problem, that being neglected youth.
Secondly, we need long term change. There are large underlying issue with neglected youth in both our own and surrounding communities.
How we set about tackling that issue is a subject almost constantly under discussion by government and community, and has been for years yet, there is still almost no coordinated action plan working towards a long-term solution.
While we all know and fervently believe that the parents of these children should be responsible and held responsible by law, the facts are they are not. Further to that many wouldn’t care less about the consequences meted out by law, even if that was to occur.
So, let’s concentrate our energies on something we can do, something all decent human beings should feel obligated to be doing: Look after the kids!
Educate them, help them to know and respect their community by helping them to understand that it is their community – before they destroy it.
Time and time again I and many other concerned citizens have put forward the following proposals aimed at a long-term solution, and time and time again our proposals have been rejected as too expensive.
Time again short-term policing activity gains a hold on the issue and attention drops away. Nobody gives a dam long enough to bring about a permanent solution.
It is your issue. If you want this community to survive and thrive, stop washing your hands of involvement, make some kind of commitment to creating change even if that effort just revolves around backing up those who try to create change, as opposed to sitting on their proverbial, making sarcastic and utterly unhelpful comments.
I’ve have put the following proposals to the community, government and town council on many occasions. I put it together with the Alice Springs Town Council Port Augusta Report and submitted it to the previous government, to every Minister and Member. I followed it up on many occasions. You know the rest.
• To provide a well facilitated youth camp / detention centre to which children are committed. Yes, that means not being allowed to leave. However, in this place they are cared for as children should be cared for: Fed, nurtured, clothed, educated, taught respect for themselves and community, mentored by community back into community, returning either as a full time committed students or to full time employment.
Yes, we already have much of this facility this place. Bush Mob at Loves Creek. We have to use it. Resource it.
Clearly however we are not using the facility to its full extent, if it turns out that our courts are responsible for that lack of use, as has been put to me on occasions, we must again take the decision from their hands and mandate the use of this facility and others like it.
We must not under any circumstances allow a return to a style of incarceration such as Don Dale because facilities like that exacerbate the problem many fold! However, just as certainly we must arrest, hold on bail, and after proceedings incarcerate these children. They cannot be allowed to run riot on our streets.
The recent incident with five absconders from the Loves Creek Camp doesn’t change anything. These incidents occur from time to time even from high security prisons – it’s a management and resourcing issue. The children at that facility are just as secure as those incarcerated in the low security at Alice Springs Correctional Facility or on the daily clean up gangs.
Clearly, they could walk away and clearly, they mainly choose not to. The kids at Loves Creek face an additional disadvantage of distance as an added deterrent to escape, and as a general rule, they choose not to.
• We need, as proposed repeatedly, a large centrally located PCYC, a drop-in centre that provides food and warmth, entertainment, sports, music, arts, dance and relaxation, all firmly overseen by youth services and local mentoring volunteers.
It must provide overnight dormitory accommodation. It must be the coolest place in town, a place where everyone wants to be. And it must be “lock in after dark” just as blue light discos and for that matter PCYC’s elsewhere operate. The only way out would be a pickup by a parent or guardian or being bussed to a supervised home.
• Of utmost importance in such a centre is community participation through voluntary supervision training and mentoring, particularly mentoring participation from people in business, teaching respect by demonstrating care.
• We must fund and provide a youth hostel similar to the style of room and board accommodation once provided by Melanka. Such a facility is a must for youths entering the workforce and needing to escape family and peer group pressures at home if they are to have any chance of success.
I sincerely hope that those who have collected enormous wealth in the name of Aboriginal people, hoarding their money, whose source is royalties, supposedly with their welfare in mind, I hope that you now return those millions in the form of this kind of infrastructure, because your community needs help.
GUEST COMMENT by STEVE BROWN