COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Yesterday we commemorated the Stolen Generation, and Kevin Rudd’s apology on behalf of the nation 10 years ago, evoking memories of extreme suffering for some.
Today we must start thinking of the Abandoned Generation. Who is part of that?
Let’s start with the 16 children who, since last Saturday, between them:-
• were in a car stolen from Alice Springs and rolled near Titjikala;
• stole a car, tried to evade police, crashed through a fence, torched the car, evaded cops by trespassing on four residential properties and tied up some 20 police and fire fighters for hours;
• and yesterday, in broad daylight and during school hours, raced a stolen car down Todd Mall and had to be stopped by dragging a tyre deflating device across their path, kilometres away on Bradshaw Drive. Police received “multiple calls” from alarmed locals.
• Today: “Police have arrested and charged a 12-year-old male in relation to a number of alleged offences across Alice Springs … unlawful use of a motor vehicle – aggravated; unlawful entry, damage to property, stealing; unlawful use of a motor vehicle.”
• And: “Police have also charged a 13-year-old male with one count of unlawful use of a motor vehicle. He will appear before the Youth Justice Court on February 19.”
All these offences are of course alleged.
Where were the parents? Where are the parents?
Most of these kids would be out of custody by now, due to face court in a few days’ time. They seem to get bail automatically.
Some if not most charges are heard in closed court. That means the bail conditions are not known. This is always the case when the accused is in the care of the state.
That is very convenient for Families Minister Dale Wakefield because it makes it almost impossible to gauge how well she is doing her job.
How many kids in trouble are in the care of the Minister? We are putting that question to her.
Police will not provide complete information. When the Alice Springs News Online asked we were told: “Police running sheets are ‘police in confidence’.
“These documents are not for publication as they contain large amounts of personal and private information.
“Offence data is made public through the release of crime statistics” – a month and a half after the fact.
Meanwhile Ms Wakefield is budgeting nearly $5m this year for looking after 28 kids on bail a day.
The kids are able to walk out any time from bail support accommodation but “voluntary departure may result in the young person breaching their bail conditions”.
Anecdotal evidence is that most kids could not care less about that. How many kids are leaving their bail support accommodation is another question we are putting to Ms Wakefield.
This is just part of the small picture, the hapless and desperate mix of what’s happening now.
The big picture demands we snap out of being in the thrall of the Stolen Generation, and make it forcefully clear to the parents that they have to start parenting. This is hardly part of the conversation at the moment.
The Abandoned Generation demands it, or we will have more – probably much more – suffering to be sorry about in 10 years’ time.
Western Australia’s first Aboriginal Magistrate Sue Gordon (now president of The Graham “Polly” Farmer Foundation) was quoted in The West Australian last week: “Everyone keeps ranting and raving about another Stolen Generation.
“It’s not a Stolen Generation. Under the law the State Government can apply to the court to have a child removed for neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
“Until those handfuls of families in each State and Territory can be given some assistance, or understand that they have the responsibility, then you will continue to have children removed.”
PHOTO: Fire crews in Col Rose Drive after a stolen car had been torched and a bushfire started.