Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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HomeIssue 45Youth problems right across the Top

Youth problems right across the Top


Sir, Our community’s problem with alienated youth is not just an Alice Springs problem or a Territory problem.  It is a deeply troubling situation right across northern Australia, and indeed in other parts of our nation.

The Kimberley, Cape York, to some extent the APY Lands and most regional towns across northern Australia from Townsville to Broome have been grappling with similar issues for years, decades.

It is a national shame that deserves the same level of national and community attention as domestic violence is beginning to receive.

Because the truth is that as a society we do not know how to deal with it.  Its roots are so deep and its symptoms so broad that no single family, community, or indeed state or territory can achieve substantial success on its own.

So many dedicated grandparents and parents, skilled youth workers and youth leaders, teachers and police as well as community members are putting in enormous effort and do achieve success for some kids some of the time.  Aboriginal and youth organisations do what they can within the resources available.

But the problems still exist, and as a society we must do so much better.

A national approach does not mean simply pushing the blame onto the national government, although it certainly has a role that it is currently shirking.

Rather a national approach will share successes and failures across state borders; will sponsor creative solutions and will be rigorous about evaluation.  It will be led by Aboriginal voices and driven by local needs and solutions. It will be fuelled by shared expertise and knowledge, better training, great ideas, and professional support and recognition for the leaders and workers in the field.

Setting a national agenda and Closing the Gap targets would draw attention to this national problem.  But we need to guard against the heavy hand of too much bureaucracy and ensure that Aboriginal youth and their families and communities can contribute to the solutions.  It will be critical to harness the energy and ideas of communities such as Alice Springs.

Alice Springs would be the ideal place to set up a Centre for Excellence in Youth Practice.

Much as our hospital is the training ground for so many health professionals from throughout Australia, this centre would train family and youth workers from across the nation.

It could sponsor the very best in family and community-led solutions.  It could run youth and peer leadership programs and immediately get skilled, focused attention on today’s eight to 12 year olds and their families as a priority.

Aboriginal teachers would ensure that workers in the field understand how to work across cultures and in remote areas.

We need communities, leaders and all levels of governments to share a sense of urgency, the confidence to be bold, the resilience to try, try and try again and a commitment to be in it for the long term.

Andrea Martin

Alice Springs


  1. People talk about Aboriginal disadvantage and how we need to teach them to empower themselves.
    The Aboriginal population is about 3.3%.
    So, we allow 3.3% of the population to control 96.7% of the rest of us and that’s OK? (It’s actually considerably less than 3.3% because not all Aboriginals are ratbags).
    They have control over considerably more than 50% of the available money.
    They control mining and many other significant factors of our lives, including our right to just go about our daily business without being assaulted, robbed etc.
    I’d say that that it’s huge advantage to be gifted that sort of control over society.
    How much more do we need empower them or is it just that we are doing it wrong?

  2. @ Surprised: Have you considered the possibility that most Aboriginal people have all the empowerment they need to live the life they choose and are mostly happy with.
    Because it is so different to mainstream lives it’s easy to assume that it’s deficient and we need to teach them to empower themselves.
    Imagine the consequences if we accepted the fallacy of our assumption.

  3. @ Pseudo Guru. You obviously still don’t get it? Boot camps won’t fix a systemic problem, that has been proven over and over.

  4. @ Pseudo Guru. You obviously still don’t get it? Boot camp won’t fix a systemic problem, that has been proven over and over.

  5. @ Ralph Folds: Hence my last sentence Ralph.
    I do hope though, that the majority of Aboriginal people do not consider that assault, stealing and generally menacing others is acceptable in any society!


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