By ERWIN CHLANDA
On the face of it, police have extensive powers and obligations relating to street kids but soon most encounters are handballed to the Territory Families and its minister, Dale Wakefield (pictured).
Assistant Commissioner Narelle Beer answered questions from the Alice Springs News on December 21 about moving children to a safe place and engagement with parents and families “via identified referral systems or direct engagement with Territory Families”.
Today Comm. Beer replied to follow-up questions from the News, including how many such referrals “to a responsible person” or the department have been made this year.
Via a spokesperson she replied that the number is “not readily available”.
Comm. Beer says: “Police work in conjunction with other services in Alice Springs including the Tangentyere night patrol and keeping kids safe patrol along with Territory Families (TF) to reduce the number of youths that may loiter around the CBD.”
NEWS: How many were conveyed more than once?
BEER: Not readily available. If a youth has been identified within the CBD on a number of occasions police may report the matter to TF as per legislative requirements.
NEWS: What happens if a “responsible person” turns out to be not responsible and the kid returns to the streets? How often has that occurred?
BEER: Not readily available. If a young person is taken home and seen again out the same night, then depending on the circumstances, [such as] age of the youth, a report may be forwarded to TF.
NEWS: How many unsupervised kids – best estimate – are in the streets of Alice Springs at night?
BEER: The number of youth within the CBD and street can vary considerably. A number cannot be provided.
NEWS: To our question how many charges has the police laid against parents failing to provide the necessities of life for their children, you replied such offences relate to serious allegations of child neglect: “A youth located in public at night time would not attract such offence consideration.” What would be serious allegations of child neglect to attract such an offence consideration?
BEER: This may include such matters where a child has not been provided medical assistance for serious injuries or illness.
NEWS: During their interactions with young people, do police ask, are you hungry? Do you go to school every school day? Do you have place to sleep that is safe? Are you being harmed? Are you afraid to be harmed? And do police follow up any medical history of the child? Do they judge whether they may be undernourished? Do they follow up any suspicions the kids may have been exposed to trauma?
BEER: Police will ask a number of questions to ascertain if the child is in need of care or in danger of harm.
Comm. Beer makes it clear no charges have been laid about failing to provide the necessities of life, but where appropriate, a report to TF would be made.
The News is asking Ms Wakefield to comment.
By ERWIN CHLANDA