COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
We are way past the tipping point with out-of-control children. We have to claw our way back up and we must start now. As these are children, and as they are at risk, they are clearly the responsibility of Families Minister Dale Wakefield, the only government front bencher in the south of the NT. She is dropping the ball.
Her plethora of expensive things don’t work because of one factor: The kids remain entirely at liberty to do what they like, when, where and to whom. They are given every opportunity to break into houses, steal cars, ram raid a business for cash or booze, and race through the town creating lethal risks to the public and themselves.
Tragically, some of them are just starving and are looking for food.
Ms Wakefield’s government is getting ready to spend $50m for the National Indigenous Art Galley which is going to flop because tourists are staying away in droves and the streets through which to reach the gallery are rarely pleasant and often not safe. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
The standard excuse it: “You can’t restrict the kids’ movements because this would create another stolen generation,” or nonsense to that effect.
When my mother (my father died when I was 12) told me to be home by dark we didn’t embark on a discussion about juvenile incarceration. We talked about my future and my responsibilities.
When adults play up they are taken into protective custody by the police and kept there till the morning, against their will, if necessary. It is absurd we are not doing this – when it is much more appropriate – for children at risk, of course in an environment that is suitable.
We have ample assets where a facility for them could be set up – the sprawling old police station opposite the new one, for example – where they could sleep, eat, be safe and experience kindness.
To say one can’t mandate kindness is cynical. Many people in this town have a heart of gold. We have thousands of volunteers. At the blink of an eye people will raise money for locals in trouble.
And the support for these children would end when they can be handed over to someone with proven ability to care for them – no sooner. Their rampaging street life would be at an end.
For many that would be the start of regular school attendance, health care if needed, a safe bed at night and three square meals a day. All this is being denied them at present – under what banner? Human Rights?
It’s clear that the government is far from having a handle on this. It may be a case for bottom-up initiatives, coming from the community, with demands for specified support from Ms Wakefield who would be brave to say “no” to supporting a coherent strategy emanating from the people of this town.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA