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HomeVolume 29Youth crime: Parents need to act, says Yan

Youth crime: Parents need to act, says Yan


It’s time parents of delinquent young people took control of their offspring, and if they don’t, laws need to be brought in to oblige them to do so.

CLP Member for Namatjira Bill Yan said this in an interview with the Alice Springs News on Show Day, two days before “about 20 male youths” allegedly assaulted, at 2.15am, four off-duty police officers, including three women, walking home at the end of night on the town.

The police media release says: “One female was pulled to the ground and had her bag stolen, another female was punched in the face and kicked multiple times and had her mobile phone taken while the male was also punched and kicked multiple times.”

We asked Mr Yan: “Do parents have responsibilities and are they committing crimes by failing care for their children?”

YAN: There are a number parents out there who are not looking after their kids and are handing over their responsibilities to grandmothers or aunts. Part of our policy platform is to hold parents accountable for their children. That’s where it starts. What we see now is police picking up children and taking them back to the same situation, and at times to harmful and dangerous situations because of the policy of taking them back to a “responsible adult”.

NEWS: How do you fix that?

YAN: There has to be somewhere for those kids to go and it can’t be short-term, whilst parents and families are worked with to provide that safe place for a child. We’re putting children into harmful and dangerous situations and a government should not be doing that.

NEWS: What do you do instead?

YAN: One of our platform is “sentenced to a skill”. Very early when the kids first come in contact with the justice system you put on some diversionary work with Saltbush, for example.

NEWS: Does that work?

YAN: For the odd kid it probably works. But there are others where it’s not working. Then kids will have interaction with the justice system, racking up offences until the absolutely last option is to put them into detention. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the middle. We want to do stuff in the middle area. We have a lot kids who don’t want to engage with mainstream education. You can engage people in education but through vocational education. They like doing things with their hands. We need a facility where kids can come, a live-in facility, but also include parents, elders, community, a wholistic approach to working with that child. When a kid comes out, a period of time later, the aim is to change these behaviours, change where they see themselves in the community, with usable skills for getting a job. I’ve seen it work in a custodial setting.

[Before politics Mr Yan was the superintendent of the Alice Springs prison.]

NEWS: Are you saying the kids would be obliged to do this. Can they say no?

YAN: We would see this as a tool for the courts to send a child to, rather than detention.

NEWS: What if the kids don’t play ball. Apprenticeships are available now. So is trade school. Why aren’t they using that? Would these children be obliged to go to your facility and stay there?

YAN: If the court says they have to go there then that is a court order. Their behaviour there is part of the nitty gritty and we haven’t really looked at that yet.

NEWS: Will that be in draft form before the election next month?

YAN: We are starting on that stuff now. There are a lot of players who need to come to the table.

NEWS: Why hasn’t this been done a lot earlier?

YAN: This has been a policy position of ours for some time.

NEWS: Do the parents have to be involved?

YAN: The parents have to be there, working with the kids to make it successful long term. The parents should be at court hearings as part of what’s happening with the child, as part of the court system. All too often this doesn’t happen, it is not a requirement. I’ve been an advocate for many years now on strengthening the banned drinkers register. If the young person in trouble is taken back to parents who are under the influence of alcohol, then those parents are not able to care for their child. They should be put on the banned drinkers’ register. They should forego the right to purchase alcohol.

NEWS: Do parents commit an offence if the don’t provide the necessities of life for their children?

YAN: That’s been spoken about for some time. I don’t know whether it’s a grey area within our legislation. There are things that can be done but the government are not doing. Families not caring for their children can be put on income management. That exists right now, today. We asked in Estimates of how many families have been put on income management for failing to look after children. It’s fewer than 10 Territory wide. That is certainly a blight on government. Here is a tool that can benefit kids that’s not being used.

NEWS: The next question would be, have these parents committed a punishable offence?

YAN: I don’t know. I’d have to look at the legislation. A fine or imprisonment is not the outcome we’re looking for. I wouldn’t use punishment as a term. You’ve got to keep the family together as much as you can, but there have to be some consequences.

NEWS: Yet parents know there are no consequences for not looking after their children.

YAN: We see so many parents blowing all their money on alcohol. Some of these kids are doing things just to get food, they are hungry, and that should not happen in any modern society. We shouldn’t see that happen in our town. That’s where that education management of parents needs to come in.

NEWS: Education is a voluntary thing. Anyone can reject it.

YAN: That may be where we need to look at legislation. If we have a parent who doesn’t look after the child properly, does the legislation exist to compulsorily require that parent to do something? If it doesn’t, do we then go and look at that legislation and actually change it so it is a compulsory for a parent to do whatever may be ordered to make sure they are providing adequate care for their children. It’s children who are losing out here. We’re having an abused generation. Every child has the right to be safe.

PHOTO: Mr Yan at the Show last Friday, orange top, taking part in the sawing competition.


  1. I can remember in 1980 being involved a YMCA youth help effort and taking a group to Wigglies waterhole for a day out.
    Swam a bit, had sandwiches and chatted about life, issues and some idea of the future, some talked, a couple said they were trying to stop petrol sniffing … I gave them my view of their future if they continued and tried to motivate to a positive and rewarding life.
    One of the boys caught me up about a year later, said he had stopped and was back at school.
    I just hope him and his mates had a fruitful life.
    Reading this story about Bill and his drive is refreshing and humbling, I just hope this results in a positive turnaround for these misguided and confused young people.
    Time doesn’t wait and it is so important to seize the opportunities to learn skills and attitudes that will benefit them in their self-reliance and welfare for life.

  2. The first step is for NT Government to build enough housing so those on Centrelink incomes can afford to live in them.
    The housing to include what single persons, particularly teens, can afford to live in.
    Youths not being properly cared for need their own units to live in and attend school from, with ability to visit their parents.

  3. This is a CLP policy shift.
    With the prison overflowing, courts overwhelmed and legal services struggling, the Law and Order approach has been supplemented with a policy aimed at the ‘middle ground’ to head off offending behaviour.
    The key here is parents taking responsibility, they have to according to Bill Yan.
    If they don’t?
    Mr Yan isn’t sure if there is legislation to force them to but if not then the CLP may introduce it.
    They won’t of course because, in practical terms, such legislation would be unenforceable.
    It would result in mass prosecutions to further jam up the courts and add to the overflowing prison population.
    The next idea is a live-in facility that includes parents, elders, community to work with the early offending child. These participants will come in from remote communities to live in this non-custodial facility?
    They won’t!
    Kids will emerge with useable skills as Mr Yan has seen work in a custodial setting.
    Many things work in a custodial setting but what Yan is not saying is that there is hardly any work outside that setting.
    “Sentenced to a Skill” is the successor to the “Sentenced to a Job” program. That did not lead to more employment or have an effect on recidivism so the bar has been lowered to getting a skill rather than a job.
    Mr Yan has not done his homework and the CLP is floundering but they are not alone.


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