By JULIUS DENNIS
A change of outlook from Council on the youth of Alice Springs could go a long way in solving the town’s issues, says the principal legal officer of the North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency, David Woodroffe.
“What I think we need is a new change in the way we talk about, think about, and support children. We need to get back to being a community that sees children as our future.
“The children are the future of Alice Springs town and residence.”
Council and mayoral candidates have the power to drive this conversation in the lead up to next month’s election.
Mr Woodroffe says: “We have to get away from the imagery of fear and start talking about positive things.”
He believes that getting to know the wider youth population rather than only the troublesome few will lead to a more organic and healthy relationship between council and young people going forward.
“I think [meeting] in many dimensions where children are, whether that is councillors being a part of kindergartens and going to schools or going to basketball stadiums, footy and netball matches, that’s the way that we start changing.”
This should also be done through publicly run, council funded venues such as the swimming pool and library.
Mr Woodroffe says currently the youth of Alice Springs, particularly young Aboriginal people, are being viewed through a “tough on crime” lens, “rather than seeing children through the lens of being part of our community and future community”.
To the question of whether the next council should be looking to implement a youth curfew were a mayor who campaigned on the prospect elected, Mr Woodroffe was blunt: “The curfew is not the way to address issues.
“We need to be looking at how we can ensure that children are safe.
“Curfew and punishment is not the way to go, and our council and our leaders should be looking towards more positive ways to ensure children’s safety after hours.”
Hubs, 24-hour centres and patrols have all been trialled, looked at and promoted by the current iteration of the Alice Springs Town Council, but as of yet, nothing permanent has been settled on. Meanwhile, the problems persist, both for the children on the streets and those affected by crime.
Mr Woodroffe says something must be established, and the sooner the better.
“There needs to be a hub where children are safe and their needs can be looked after, whether that is meals and a place to sleep or a place to form friendships and be influenced by positive role models.
“That’s the way to make Alice Springs safer.”
With so much of the mayoral candidates’ rhetoric focused on crime so far, Mr Woodroffe says that the only way for council to succeed is by broadening the views they hear.
“Most critically the Alice Springs Council members need to be listening to other voices, and voices that are supportive and positive, rather than negative and a tough on crime approach.”
Were some of those voices to come from with council, perhaps it would be easier to listen: “I think it would be more positive to have a council that is reflective of the wider community, which would encourage having a greater portion of Indigenous council members — a council that is reflective of the entire community.”
PHOTOS: The juvenile detention centre under construction near the adult prison, 25km south of the town.