Kids: See them as our future, not a threat

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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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The way things have evolved in Alice over the last fifty years, the heading should be: “Kids seen as a past, current and future threat.”
    That would more to the point. The kids of fifty, forty, thirty and twenty years ago are the reason why the kids of today are a BIG problem.
    I can’t believe how the goody two shoes are so socially and politically so blind to the problem.

  2. Allen Byrne, what dreadful comments, and I’m no bloody goody two shoes.
    David Woodroffe says: “We need to get back to being a community that sees a future for our children.”
    I would argue that we need to get to being a community that sees a future.
    We live in a town comprising many nationalities. What say we encourage a willing individual from this great array of diversity to stand for council election while there is still time, have a choice of candidates to select a representative body from of both men and women with new ideas and for once, trial a culturally appropriate run council that may move us forward and provide positive evolvement for our tormented Allen Byrne.
    The children of today are our future, not those of the past. They are the ones who may one day be the leaders of what we provide for them. Let’s make for a positive equitable leadership and start thinking outside the square.

  3. No matter what your age, if you’re treated as someone who has infinite potential, the only way is up.
    To quote someone whose name I have long since forgotten: “Children are spoiled by being ignored and by harshness, not by kindness.”
    The (genuine) question that’s raised for me in this refreshingly positive piece of journalism is who’s making the decisions about our kids?
    Is it a bunch of people randomly thrown together in the name of “representation”?
    Or is the discussion being lead by people like Mr Woodroffe and the mob of experts we have living among us?
    Many of whom have years of training and decades of lived local experience.
    Are we truly leveraging that rich knowledge bank, or are we entrusting it to the councillor/s with the greatest capacity to exert their influence?

  4. @ Relieved: Perhaps it is that Allen is completely frustrated and disillusioned and I tend to agree with him.
    Yep, there are still good kids around the place, but in my opinion they are in the minority.
    Kids grow up to be adults regardless of their upbringing.
    Clearly there are major differences and deficiencies in parenting skills and I think you may find that Allen is suggesting doing something positive with the upbringing side while they are kids, so that a) they have good prospects and b) become good leaders in society.
    Very different from just letting them get their own way and continue to be a menace and cost to society.

  5. Nothing wrong with being frustrated or disillusioned, we’ve all been there.
    However it’s how we express these emotions in public, and particularly about our future generation.
    Think about it. Would you feel good being blamed for something that you have no control over? Society is ever evolving. Fads come and go.
    Young people look up to someone who has something better to offer than what they are currently experiencing.
    I once did and went on to university to learn how I could change and offer something better than what I was experiencing.
    I believe we just need to be aware of how we deal with the frustration and disillusionment and it’s certainly not by publicly berating young people.
    Coming up with something that can be shared could maybe gather momentum for change and to what you are truly after.

  6. “We need to get back to being a community that sees our children as our future.”
    This is a sweeping assertion of assumed fact, in a highly sensitive community issue – our children.
    I don’t see any real hard supporting evidence to verify this rather alarming claim that the Alice community has allegedly stopped thinking our kids are our future.
    Haven’t all caring Aussie communities always thought our kids are our future? Especially the Alice community?
    Such an emotive claim automatically creates controversy and divides public opinion in the community immediately.
    While I don’t question Mr Woodroffe’s sincerity or his personal experience for one moment, it seems to be designed to shock.
    My experience has been that people automatically tend to take sides over such statements. And that is sad.
    I feel this type of sensationalistic claim does not do a lot for calm and reasoned discussion towards bipartisan resolution of underlying problems with young people, whether it is in the Alice or anywhere else.
    I think people don’t need to be shocked, just invited to take part in friendly, respectful public debate towards unpacking these sensitive social issues and arriving at answers.

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