Problem kids: The whole town must help


p2064-Steve-Brown-130By ERWIN CHLANDA
Steve Brown (pictured), a prominent figure in the town’s conservative politics, and a former town councillor and CLP candidate, says the Alice community must start having a major role in finding solutions for problem kids.
They and meeting their needs must be central to the town’s endeavours, in terms of focus as well as geography, with a 24/7 youth centre somewhere in the CBD.
“You can’t stop kids from violent neglected backgrounds with rules, threats of dire consequence or incarceration, an outcome for them that is probably much better than being at home,” says Mr Brown.
“All you will achieve by such an approach is greater division, greater hostility.
“Clearly, we must take a different approach to the usual threats of a consequence of which these kids have no fear.”
Mr Brown says let’s “ask ourselves, what would it take to change that hostility into friendship? Make these kids feel included, appreciated, part of the community!
“I believe this can be achieved by providing something that recognises and acknowledges, their existence, something they will value, something they will not put at risk by behaving badly!
“And the answer to achieving that outcome lies in the form of a very large centrally located community owned and operated youth centre,” says Mr Brown.
“It must operate 24/7 and become the coolest place in the town to hang out! The centre must be many different things, operated by professional youth workers alongside community volunteers.
“It must become a place of safety, a centre of constant activity focused round street cultures of music, dance, sports, food and relaxation, which in combination create a feeling, an ambience, a place of light and warmth, of genuine care and concern, of community recognition and upon achievement, congratulatorily respect, for many their first experience of the guiding encouragement expected of the parental role.
“If we can succeed in creating this culture of inclusion we will bring enormous and lasting change to the issue of youth upon our streets, change not only for the kids of the centre, but for the very foundations of our community.
I have raised the potential of this centre on previous occasions in the Alice Springs News Online. On those occasions I was looking for government support which wasn’t forthcoming.
“However on this occasion I am looking to raise community awareness of this concept.
“I am seeking genuine committed support for the creation of a Community organisation which will bring this concept to life and begin the process of putting this community back together, making it a happier safer place to live. As we lift and improve the lives of these street kids so to in turn will we lift and improve the lives of all Alice Springs people.”
He urges the public not to “detract from this concept by putting forward Anzac Hill School as a base for it.
“Apart from it being already committed to another project, it is absolutely the wrong place for this one. It must have CBD street frontage. Both the old Memo and police station have been suggested, also possibly as part of the Flynn Church Project.
“Central is an essential part of this concept,” says Mr Brown.
UPDATE May 26, 5.40pm: Steve Brown will be calling a public meeting. See readers’ comment box.


  1. Alice desperately needs tourism and new business so kids can aim at jobs. Families are the problem. Australia wide food, medicine, no cash, no grog, no smokes welfare / pension cards required. Stop sucking up.

  2. Thank you, Steve Brown, for your practical and compassionate response.
    As a citizen of Alice Springs I would be happy to support such an initiative.
    You give me hope that we do have wise leadership in this town.
    We have unique problems which need creative solutions.
    The safety of these children, some very young, is paramount.
    Once safe other options for schooling and employment become possible.

  3. Psuedo Guru: Only when our kids problems are fixed can tourism flower.
    Kids who have no schooling and no discipline cannot hope to find employment.
    I am 100% behind Steve Brown on his ideas. I think the old police station would be a good site, as employees and volunteers would feel safe.
    In my opinion, no cash,no smoke etc … will lead to more breakings and enters.

  4. Congratulations, Steve Brown, on presenting a solution that I wholeheartedly support.
    Our town has an anti-youth culture that cannot handle youngsters that do not conform to adult expectations.
    Instead of pushing them into sport-based activities, telling them where and when the can skate or ride a bike and generally treating them with suspicion, we should be providing them a supportive environment that allows kids to just “be kids”.
    Steve’s practical idea is one of the foundation stones upon which a better Alice may be built, rather than the punitive approach exposed by Pseudo Guru.

  5. Steve, I love and support your concept. You use terms such as, “ask ourselves, what would it take to change that hostility into friendship” and “… in creating this culture of inclusion we will bring enormous and lasting change”.
    Your concept deserves great applause and I for one fully support the concept of the 24/7 CBD initiative proposed by you.
    Naturally such a brave initiative requires the usual things that make people hesitant like “who will fund it,” who will co-ordinate it, who will have a representative voice for young people, and so on”, but I’m sure you have given this all great thought for such a great concept.
    Steve, I fully support you on this one. Would be happy to be part of raising community awareness of the concept and I’m not politically affiliated.

  6. Thank you Steve for your considered and thoughtful points of view.
    It is refreshing to hear from non-Aboriginal people with real solutions and ideas to help our town and make it a safe place for all citizens.

  7. I whole heartedly agree with Steve Brown. I think the youth centre should also work as a youth shelter for kids to stay in a safe place.
    In addition we need a curfew with the view of taking the kids home, if parents cannot be found or unsafe to drop them off home then to take them to the shelter as it is a basic need to be and feel safe.

  8. May be Steve could organize a survey for the residents and businesses.
    Do you support the concept – yes/no?
    Would you give your time – yes/no?
    Would you make a donation – yes /no?

  9. @ Evelyne: We are organising a public meeting. The date and venue is yet to be confirmed but looking at 5.30pm Thursday, June 7. I will advertise the moment it is confirmed.
    At this meeting we will set out the entire concept including funding and fundraising along with a pathway to completion and operation.
    We are looking for input from dedicated community members from right across the sectors, individuals, youth workers, businesses, churches, NGOs, government reps from all levels will also be welcome. Everyone who wants the never ending cycle of mayhem to end and who wants to help change young neglected lives into thriving positive ones while making Alice Springs a much better, much safer, and much happier place to live.
    At the meeting we will need to elect a small executive body to administer the organisation, however it is an essential part of this concept that we maintain a full community interface.
    Community ownership and a belief in that ownership is a very important part of this concept so all meetings into the future will continue to be open to all interested parties.
    It is important to note: This organisation will not be aligned with any other body or political party.
    It will be a totally independent community organisation open to all comers just as the centre we create will be.

  10. Hmmmmm, I think Steve’s idea could be useful depending on how it is implemented.
    One thing I think is important is that the staffing should be heavily weighted with people from the demographic for whom it is intended to affect.
    Poverty is one of the drivers of antisocial behaviour, more jobs for privileged whitefellas will not address that issue.

  11. A whole-of-commUNITY approach is certainly required to effectively engage in this process.
    Well done to all of you who support this initiative.
    It’s a practical example of how the Youth Engagement Strategy for Australia’s Northern Territory created over the past 18+ months can be implemented here in this community.
    Sustained input and guidance especially from our younger generations over many years is required. The YESNT project primarily designed for the six to 26 year old populations around the NT suggests 20 years will be required to effect substantial intergenerational change.
    Come together, be together, Alice Springs … we can do this.

  12. To Evelyne Roullet, it seems you see the need to supply cash, smokes etc?
    I do not agree with that idea, but I do agree with Mr Guru.
    Stop with the suck, and by the way Mr Guru, why do you not have the intestinal fortitude to use your real name? I put my name to my statements and have no fear in doing so.

  13. Hope all the parents will be a the meeting. As everyone forgets, they have parents and families. They are responsible for their children. Why are we taking that responsibility off the parents?

  14. Ian Rennie: Welfare is a Federal issue. Welfare rights means the rights of people to be aware of and receive their maximum entitlement to state welfare benefits, and to be treated reasonably well by the welfare system.
    What people do with their cash be smoking, drinking, gambling.They are their business, but the key to abuse is education not prohibition.
    Income management is paternalistic and illiberal. It’s absurd that governments say they want to reduce welfare dependency, yet at the same time actively encourage such dependency by taking freedom of choice away from welfare recipients.

  15. Taking responsibility off parents? Really?
    It’s not the first time I’ve heard that rather sad comment or should I say excuse.
    We are not intending to take responsibility off anyone. Our intention is to provide a service.
    A place of refuge, of fun and activities for youth, no matter who they are.
    This is a service even the best of parents will have a use for! Of course the basis of the concept revolves round kids who aren’t fortunate enough to have either good parents or parents with the means to cater for them.
    Yes, we will be reaching out and actually helping these kids, hopefully demonstrating that there is care, there is hope, that there is away ahead, providing them with the tools to build a good life as a member of a happy go-ahead inclusive community.
    Most of all this centre is about bringing our community together, loosing the fear and distrust on one side, anger and rejection on the other.
    It is about coming together, getting used to being in each others company, learning not to lump everybody in the same basket, its about learning and accepting that we are all real people, mutual trust and respect built through consistent demonstrable care and interaction.
    The issue of kids on our streets is not a one sided issue. It’s not just about drunks and bad parents, its about inclusion, its about creating a community where people don’t think its alright to walk by a child in need.
    It’s about bringing a bit of decency, of commonsense of humanity, of care and consideration to an issue that deeply affects all of us in this community, in one way or another.
    If you want to be involved in doing something about it we are holding (now confirmed) a public meeting Thursday June 7 at 5.30pm in the Andy McNeil Room to discuss not whether we are doing this, but how to bring it to fruition.
    If you are a genuinely concerned citizen of this community and you would like to help, to get involved, in making it a better place for everyone, come along, please.

  16. Have you gone and formed a relationship with the parents to find out what they need to help with their children? Or to help them with their own needs? Are you using the best of the resources that are already here in Alice Springs?

  17. @ Jack: I thought I made it pretty clear, we are not replacing parents. We are providing a venue a service that kids and parents can choose to use.
    We intend to make it so good it will be irresistible!
    Further, we are not replacing existing youth services. We will be making use of them too, inviting them in to base their operations, to use us as pick up drop off whatever their needs that can work in with the Centre and contribute to its general activity.
    We aim at making it a place where everything happens a natural place to hang out.
    As for talking, Jack, I’ve been resident of this town 64 years this year I’ve talked to and listened too a huge part of the population over that time.
    Talking and asking questions is not our problem. We’ve been doing that forever!
    Our problem appears to be getting off our proverbials and actually doing something!
    Well, this time round we intend to change that!
    Yes, Jack, if you are genuinely concerned, this is a chance for you to get in and help!

  18. Dear Mr Brown: Excellent idea. So, on a positive note, a suggestion.
    I’ve just returned from Siem Reap in Cambodia.
    Here street kids are given shelter and trained in a variety of different arts.
    It is run by an NGO called Phare – The “Cambodian Circus”.
    It entertains tourist every night of the year so that all the trained children have an opportunity to participate.
    Phare, the NGO that supports this initiative, has been run by locals and SR businesses for years. It is similar to the Flying Fruit Fly Circus which started in Albury in the 70s when I worked in Wodonga. Albury was not much bigger than Alice Springs at the time.
    Flying fruitfly now trains communities and their children throughout Australia and could assist the AS community in such an enterprise.
    The Cambodian Circus teachers and carers are both professionals artists and volunteers, with the requisite arts skills and rehabilitation skills.
    The students learn to compose the music using traditional gamelan and modern instruments.
    They write the scripts for each circus show and this helps them deal with their problems and previous way of life.
    They also design and build or make all the sets and costumes.
    They are the biggest tourist attraction in Siem Reap and perform nightly all year.
    The shop next to their permanent tent sells tickets but also quality toys and artworks made by the students.
    Three of the students were asked to join Cirque du Soleil and the others have useful skills for future employment.
    Like many children, I wanted to join the circus as a child.
    Surplus energy and nothing else to do causes inevitable mischief!
    This form of training teaches them a great deal about self-discipline and the joy of doing well something they love.

  19. @ Andrea: Thank you for your comment. An interesting read and the kind of activity I think a centre like this should take on board, everybody giving a hand and having a lot of fun doing it.
    Also, very much part of the reason why the centre must include a hall and stage so kids helped by volunteers can put on these kinds of shows.


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