Kids crisis: Town board to keep check on govt. agencies?


p2064-Steve-Brown-130GUEST 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.


  1. @ Michael Dean: Michael, we can do nothing and it will get worse.
    We can try something and at least we have tried, or we can do a polly and bury our heads in the sand, by offering ad lib or silver bullet suggestions.
    It is unfortunate that so many that post in the paper have no suggestions to offer, so we should be grateful that there are people who care.
    When we stop caring, we will ALL be in big trouble.
    I vote for keep trying for now.

  2. I sense that last week our town reached a tipping point. Finally some politicians are saying the behaviour is unacceptable and actually seem to mean it.
    But their “solutions” are same ol’ – same ol’. Surrounding Indigenous communities have been enduring this dysfunction for decades and politicians wring their hands and look away. They are bereft of new approaches with a mindset stuck in political correctness that have simply delivered the outcomes we now are witnessing on a too regular basis. And in winter season also! Goodness knows what summer will bring!
    We must get serious with the stick alongside and in balance to the carrot. Our kids are too precious to earn a good kick up the backside as an immediate feedback for unacceptable behaviour.
    To date we have rewarded bad behaviour with programs designed to entertain those who exhibit negative behaviours, while ignoring the good kids out there crying out for a safe home and activities to engage them.
    Meanwhile many have been subliminally and actively taught to disrespect their customary law. Elders now have limited influence and control. Good programs out-bush fail because the elder is unable to write a submission and report on their KPIs demanded by the bureaucracy.
    Many of these kids are between cultures. Government over decades has actively removed the powers of elders, family, community, school and the law to discipline all our children.
    Who is surprised by how society is evolving? Not me.
    When family and peer influence fails to support kids they often turn to alternatives. They are untouchable before the law until they find themselves in real trouble.
    Even there they usually manage to escape responsibility and are given endless chances by a legal system now bruised by the recent Royal Commission.
    These youth have no respect, or fear of customary or white-man law. Worse, I fear that many youth now see Dylan Voller as an anti-hero and are further emboldened.
    There must be a solution here before our society is fractured to breaking point. But more of the same will simply give more of the same outcomes.
    Our council rejected a curfew and our town is paying the price. In some ways Alice is beginning to resemble those fractured communities in our region.

  3. The white elephant in the room is alcohol abuse. What is a six-year-old doing out at night, where are the parents.
    Until we as a community do something about the availability of alcohol nothing will change.
    Change the welfare payment days to one day a fortnight as used to be when I was a young fella might help reduce the non stop drinking.
    Put everyone on a basic card that collects welfare. Maybe we also need to look at having a no takeaway day on the same day as the welfare payment i.e. Thirsty Thursday.
    As a community we need to seriously look at options that will effect the whole community for the better but may upset some community members.

  4. Spot on Mark and I am 100% against rewards for bad behaviour and ignoring the good. More activities and more parents would think: “Let them on the streets, they will have fun and we will have peace.”
    It is time for a curfew, this will demonstrate that we care for those kids.
    After time kids still loose should be collected and put in a safe place, but not to play, to sleep.

  5. These are children from homes or care homes where nobody actually cares. They are on the streets to escape those places to hang out with mates and to have fun, which mostly revolves round taunting the police and running away.
    Little bastards they may be, but you cannot judge them by the same standards as your own children, coming from a good home!
    While they maybe on the streets for fun they are also cold, hungry, isolated, excluded, often scared and often angry.
    The concept of a PCYC is not about reward it is about forming a connection, bringing them in, as opposed to shutting them out. It is about ending the us and them division by providing a community place that says loud and clear your community recognises and cares about your existence.
    Most of all it is about education! Education through fun, through the things that the kids identify with such as music dance and sports, or just lounging, hanging out in a safe place, watching TV.
    Once you have interested, involved kids interacting with wider community members in a place of warmth and trust you have some chance of changing their lives.
    Harsh as it may sound, you are now providing a place where they desperately want to be. You now have some leverage in their lives, a means of getting them to comply with the rules, because you can take it away.
    If on the other hand we were to bring in a curfew in isolation to the other measures, we will end up with an extreme “us and them”, hundreds of cold, isolated, indifferent and bloody angry kids having the time of their lives being chased about town by the police while they rip our town apart!
    So put away the judgemental self righteous stuff and go down and see them when they are at the Uniting Church drop in centre, spend some time, understand the issue, and get behind some effort to change the lives of these kids for the better.
    Because in so doing you will change the life of our town for the better.

  6. Steve, I am with you, willing to help but we need clarification:
    Are we talking week-end? Holidays periods? Or any day?
    Sleep research suggests that a teenager needs between nine and 10 hours of sleep every night. This is more than the amount a child or an adult needs. Yet most adolescents only get about seven or eight hours. Some get less.
    Regularly not getting enough sleep leads to chronic sleep deprivation.
    This can have dramatic effects on a teenager’s life, including reduced academic performance at school.
    One recent US study found that lack of sleep was a common factor in teenagers who receive poor to average school marks. This is why I said “sleep in a good bed, but no activities”.

  7. I believe the children on the street display the first symptom of sleep deprivation – aggressive, antisocial, withdrawn, hyperactive, unable to control or regulate behaviour.

  8. When can we [do with] these “parents” who do not contribute to society, who are breeding without wanting these kids that they accidentally conceive and leave us to look after and fund for their entire life?
    All damage included.
    Life is just too easy and when everything is paid for by the gubbernment no matter how many kids you have, health and housing and income is not a problem.
    Too bad if you had a job and had to look after your own kids, self fund and pay taxes … that would be awful right? Just sayin.

  9. I never thought I’d ever say this, but Councillor Steve Brown has the only workable response I’ve read to this festering problem that is dragging our town down.
    If the cost of providing such a centre and its services are able to be charged back to the parents, it may sway the nay-sayers that believe such a proposal is “going soft” on kids and letting the parents of the neglected children off the hook.
    The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here