Rock throwing kids were already in care, Minister told

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – Minister John Elferink conveniently failed to acknowledge that a number of the children who appeared in court this week in relation to the recent [rock throwing and vandalism] incidents were already in care of the Department of Children and Families.

 

The current child protection service is itself failing many children. Minister Elferink might point the finger at families – but what about looking at the quality of care the Department is providing?

 

We are extremely concerned that the Minister’s comments are harmful in that they are not in line with Northern Territory child protection legislation.  If the Government ought to have learnt anything from the disgraceful legacy of the Stolen Generation, it is that removal must always be the option of last resort.

 

We are outraged at comments such as “if parents don’t want to see their children in care then they need to get off the grog and head back to their home community”. These comments are disturbing and disgraceful. They are clearly directed at Aboriginal people and are dangerously generalised, reinforcing negative and untrue stereotypes.

 

The Northern Territory Government’s response comes at a time when they have defunded a number of youth programs in Alice Springs in the last three years. These include vital after-hours programs that give young people something useful and meaningful to do.

 

It is significant that there were no school holiday programs funded by the Northern Territory Government for the recent holiday period.

 

A more helpful and proactive response from the Chief Minister Adam Giles and Minister Elferink would be to work more proactively with local youth agencies.

 

We also note that it was widely known that a large number of families would be in Alice Springs due to school holidays, the football carnival and other events. Transport services back to communities have been limited and there was a lack of coordinated planning.

 

The Government needs to work with, and not against families and local services. Funding needs to urgently be provided to youth services in Alice Springs for youth activity and support programs, as well as transport services for key events.

 

Antoinette Carroll and Christa Bartjen-Westermann

Making Justice Work

 

 

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Heckler
    Posted April 19, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Can Antoinette and Christa offer some hard evidence – not statements by kids that they had a good time – that after hours activities for youth actually reduce anti-social behaviour and keep kids off the street for the rest of the night?
    With the recent de-funding of the after hours program they should be able to provide pre- and post figures showing how effective the program was.
    And by the way, how many of the kids were under the care of the Minister compared to the number of kids on the street and throwing rocks? A real figure please, not “a number”.
    A and C seem to imply that “a number” of rock throwers in care demonstrate failure of the child protection system. Applying the same logic, if “a number” of kids who participate in after hours youth activities then stay in town and break windows or throw rocks, that would indicate failure of the after hours program, wouldn’t it?

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  2. Peter
    Posted April 19, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Yes spot on Phil Walcott. In his rush to self promote, Mr Elferink has shown up the failure of his own government’s by threatening to put rock throwing children in care when some of the culprits were already in the care of the Department of Children and Families.
    And there is indeed too much of a police background at work in NT Government decision making.
    Police responses have a place of course, but it’s far cheaper and more effective if youth programs can head off the anti social behaviour and arrangements can be put in place to transport visitors back to their own communities.

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  3. Phil Walcott
    Posted April 19, 2015 at 7:16 am

    An excellent letter from Antoinette and Christa who both work very hard at the coal face with many young people in our community.
    They KNOW what they’re talking about unlike posturing politicians who draw their remarks from a background in policing along with an over-inflated ego and sense of self-importance with regard to their legal prowess.
    The child protection model used in the Northern Territory is badly broken and toxic. It needs to implode and start again following some evidence-based world best practice models (e.g. see protectionproject.org).
    The huge turnover of front-line staff in this this agency is deplorable.
    It would be helpful if the good Minister actually did a few shifts in some of these “containment houses” around town to get a real idea of how complicated and complex some of these children and their issues are.

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