Youth crime out of control in the Northwest of Western Australia

I am old enough to know the background of this problem.   The "youth" concerned are Aboriginal youths and they are a problem nationwide.  Ever since the missionaries were eased out of running Aboriginal settlemrents, civility in those settlements has steadily declined.  

I remember elderly Aborigines who grew up under missionary supervision.  People who know only the present crop of young Aborigines would be amazed at how Westernized they were.  They behaved  in a way that was remarkably similar to white expectations. So Aborigines can  be adaptively socialized,  given good examples of how to behave.

And nobody has come up with a management strategy which is remotely as fruitful as what the missionaries offered. The strategy mentioned nowadays is basically a strategy of desperation.  They hope to get aboriginal youth away from the cities and back into the countryside within existing Aboriginal communities.  Getting the problem out of sight is the proposed solution.  

Accommodation in Aboriginal communities is normally these days provided by some government body  and providing more of that in the "bush" communities is proposed.  How you are going to incentivize the youth to return to their communities is not explained.  A lot more than housing is needed to socialize problem youth.  A whole-of-life management programme is needed to civilize them.

But such treatment would be "paternalistic" so cannot now be contemplated. Dysfunction among Aboriginal youth will continue

The WA Government has announced a $40 million package to address youth crime. Community leaders are divided about whether it will deliver tangible change. There are calls for more than one on-country residential facility as an alternative to detention

"It was a beautiful town when I came here, everyone got on well with each other, but over the last two years, the crime rate has just grown and grown, it seems to be out of control," he said.

"The last one [break in] was pretty serious, they actually damaged a whole door…we had to close for a whole day so we lost a day's takings…the overall cost will be major."

He said there was an urgent need to find an answer.  "It seems the youth are running the streets," he said. "Everyone in town is scared."

Mr Moore's business is one of a growing number of businesses in the Kimberley caught up in a spate of property damage and crime being blamed on young people.

The WA Government announced a $40 million package on Tuesday aimed at addressing escalating youth crime in the region. 

The announcement included increased funds to expand the Target 120 program – which supports young people who are at risk of becoming lost to the criminal justice system – to nine more locations across the state.

The package also includes $15 million for a new dedicated residential facility to house at-risk youth on-country, a measure that community leaders have lobbied for over many years.

It's a move that's been welcomed by Social Reinvestment WA — an Aboriginal-led coalition of 25 not-for-profit organisations.

Coordinator Sophie Stewart said the package was a start in addressing underlying root causes of the offending and more effective interventions.

"We do need an alternative to incarceration for young people in the Kimberley and for that matter also in the Pilbara," she said.

"With the reports of the alarming conditions and human rights abuses at Banksia Hill, we're really glad to see the state government prioritising initiatives that will keep children out of prison."

Ms Stewart said keeping children close to country, community and culture would be a key part of the solution.

She said close consultation at the grassroots level would be key to the success of the new measures. "What we know is that whatever the facility ends up looking like it needs to be a therapeutic space that provides opportunities to build pathways for their future," she said.

She said there needed to be an opportunity for a job, further schooling and training as well as a therapeutic and rehabilitative space for young people living with trauma.

"For these initiatives to be successful the state government has to work in partnership with local communities and lived experience people in the design and the delivery," she said.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan has flagged Myroodah Station as a possible site for the new residential facility.

Pandanus Park resident Patricia Riley said basing the new facility in a remote area was "a great approach". Ms Riley said getting children out of major towns such as Broome and Kununurra would ease some of the challenges being faced on the ground.

"These parents go out into town and they end up staying there and then dragging their family into town, the kids get bored and get up to mischief…these poor kids they just want attention," she said. "They've got no choice but to be in town because of their parents, so it's a good idea to take these children out back onto country.

She said communities needed programs and employment delivered properly to address what people needed.

Wyndham-East Kimberley shire president David Menzel said the government should consider developing more than one on-country residential facility in the region. 

"I'm not sure whether that's singular or plural at the moment but it needs to be plural," he said. "There needs to be several options to get people out of some of the chaos that is their normal life.

"Give them somewhere where there's a bit of a breather so they can get a bit of time out, have some support systems around them to work through some of the issues."

While the package has been welcomed by some in the community as a step in the right direction, others were concerned it wouldn't be enough to address the region's complex and deep-rooted juvenile crime problem.

Nirrumbook Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Joe Grande aid the government was 'following chicken feed' instead of working with the community to tackle core issues.

His Aboriginal-run capacity building organisation mainly derives its membership from the Dampier Peninsula region, north of Broome.

"What about the money they've already spent?" he said.  "The reality is that until we all collaborate, real collaboration, true collaboration with government, then we're all going to be working in isolation from one another."

Broome Shire Deputy President Desiree Male said it remained to be seen if the programs would be enough. "Having this not work is not an option," she said.


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