Bushmob quits Loves Creek deal: Government let us down

2459 bushmob

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Bushmob Aboriginal Corporation has withdrawn from its agreement with Territory Families for running a youth camp at Loves Creek Station 90 km from Alice Springs.

 

CEO Will MacGregor says: “Despite numerous attempts to resolve the issues, including through our lawyer and again today, Territory Families expected us to run their trial program for high risk young people without a reliable phone communication system, lighting, security cameras or basic fencing nor access to adequate water and power supply.

 

“This is unacceptable by anyone’s standards.”

 

He says these shortcomings contributed to the absconding of five youths who are alleged to have broken into the Ross River Homestead tourism resort and stolen a car, cash and alcohol on Friday.

 

Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield told the Alice Springs News Online on Saturday that Bushmob would need to upgrade its security.

 

But Mr McGregor says Bushmob had called for an urgent meeting with Territory Families on Friday to discuss “ongoing inadequacies with the infrastructure and occupational health and safety issues at the Territory Families facility.

 

“Territory Families were unavailable to meet until today. The meeting took place but discussions failed to resolve the issues with the Territory Families facility at Loves Creek Station which became operational in early 2016.”

 

Says Mr MacGregor: “Bushmob agreed to join the Territory Families pilot program at Loves Creek Station on the understanding there would be appropriate safety and security infrastructure.

 

“Bushmob had no control over the infrastructure at the Territory Families Loves Creek Station facility. All we asked for was the same infrastructure as any other residential facility in the Territory to overcome issues like blind spots at night and to respond in emergencies.

 

“Bushmob is not walking away from the need for alternatives to locking young people up. It will work with any government that is commited and fair dinkum about developing appropriate alternatives such as Bushmob’s Alice Springs program and the pilot Apmere Mwerre camp.

 

“It is extremely sad that these issues have overshadowed the good work of the dedicated Bushmob team, local Indigenous people, and the traditional owners running the camp and the efforts of the many young people who benefited and excelled during the pilot.”

 

PHOTO from Bushmob website.

 

UPDATE 2:50pm

 

Mr MacGregor says Bushmob will return to Territory Families money not yet expended for the program: “I don’t know anyone who has done that.”

 

This morning’s meeting with the department had provided no prospect for immediate improvements: Nothing was likely to happen before December, he says he was told, when tenders may be called, “no change, no upgrade, no security till then.

 

“And contrary to what Minister Wakefield says, security infrastructure is not our responsibility.”

 

The Apmere Mwerre (Good Place) program had been going for a year, developing from initiatives started under the Giles Government as the beginning of restorative justice processes.

 

Some of the 32 young people who had been to Loves Creek had been referred by Correctional Services, the courts or the department, “in trickles of referrals” of low risk offenders, some as part of bail conditions.

 

Of these 12 have “graduated,” says Mr MacGregor, being “re-integrated” with families or entering boarding schools.

 

But he says some would clearly require more of the care that Bushmob is committed to providing, “therapeutic treatment, medical problems, chronic health issues, not seeking appropriate help”, problems that had accumulated over “four generations”.

 

2460 Bushmob Priest St OKHe says Bushmob has 20 beds in its Priest Street campus (pictured), which is running smoothly, and 10 at Loves Creek.

 

He says Bushmob never as been a lock-down facility. “We are not allowed to restrain and nor would we want to, but we need some basic infrastructure to be able to intervene at some level, when things go haywire ”.

 

He acknowledges that some “habitual hard core guys need to be in secure care.

 

“Nobody approves of breaking in and throwing rocks and stealing cars. I’ve been on the rough side of town as well, as have many of my staff, until someone said to me, you’re a dickhead. It all began to make sense, that you could move forward with your life.”

 

Territory Families staff have little interest in how Loves Creek works, he says: “We chain our cars to our demountables, like a horse because there is no vehicle compound nor other basic infrastructure around risk mitigation.”

 

The camp is staffed mostly by Aboriginal families, traditional owners of the area, land trust members, who “put their heart and soul into that. They do take responsibility. We work 24 hour, four day shifts, two teams.”

 

The Alice Springs News Online is seeking comment from Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield who, says Mr MacGregor, has never been to Loves Creek, and neither has Indigenous Affairs Minster Nigel Scullion, although his chief of staff had said the Senator would “be out there as soon as possible”.

 

UPDATE 7:20pm

 

Families Minister Dale Wakefield provided the following comment: “It is disappointing that Bushmob have chosen to no longer deliver their youth camp program, despite funding and regular support from the Department of Territory Families.

 

“They have been provided with $2.4m over an 18-month period to deliver the program, and I’m disappointed that they feel they can’t effectively run the program.

 

“Territory Families is working with Bushmob on an exit strategy and the best way to ensure that the kids referred to Bushmob are able to complete the program. We will be seeking a new service provider which will be determined through the tender process.”

 

 

 

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7 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. Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    To be fair, Steve Brown, the article states that the program became “operational in early 2016”.
    If my memory serves me right, that was during the previous Giles-led CLP government who, it would appear, failed to provide the required infrastructure for such a program.
    True, the present government has inherited the problem and needs to provide a fix, but cheap political point-scoring is not what is needed today in resolving this urgent social problem.

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  2. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 8:48 am

    “We will be seeking a new service provider which will be determined through the tender process.” Dale, a very disappointing statement.
    How will the new service provider chosen?
    The cheapest one or the one who like BushMob having dedicated employees caring for the children more than for themselves?

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  3. Margo MacGregor
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Minister Wakefield’s comments on Friday and day before yesterday show an astounding lack of insight into the electorate, and appalling ineptitude in a high profile policy area.
    If Dale Wakefield had any control of her portfolio she would have directed her department to get the infrastructure sorted and immediately launch an investigation into why it took so long.
    The public deserves to know why Territory Families did not provide basic safety and security infrastructure, particularly in light of what we now know about Don Dale and the other facilities under its control asr the previous department for corrections.
    Instead, the best this Minister Wakefield can come up with is a cynical attack on a reputable Aboriginal organisation by using young people as political pawns and in the process undermining the probity of a future tender process.
    The Chief Minister should sack her.

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  4. Steve Brown
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    If anybody is wondering if this government is coping, the answer is NO.
    And this is at a time when the service of a dedicated caring organisation is not only desperately required, it is politically essential.
    It is leading the way, demonstrating the new and right way to deal with incarcerated children.
    At a time when our streets run wild, because this Government has lost control of its bureaucracy, can anybody believe that this simply irreplaceable NGO is dismissed by the Minister with a bureaucratic brush off?
    Is there no recognition of their vocational dedication over years of serving our community, rehabilitating children? Just flicked off as if you can just put this out to tender and find someone to replace them?
    What a disrespectful failure to recognise and backup Bushmob’s efforts!
    Oh, and it will go out to tender in a month or two and take several more to select and settle in another tenderer if indeed there is one.
    Meanwhile we just let the kids run loose and destroy our community, do we?
    I can only suggest, Minister, that you find a way to keep Loves Creek operating, or pretty damn soon, just one short year into your Government, you are going to be facing your Clare Martin moment on the steps of the Convention Centre.
    We will not tolerate our town being taken apart as it was previously under a Labor Government, under the auspices of a bungling bureaucracy and moronic blow-ins from Canberra on the fifth floor, dismantling our community organisations without the slightest loyalty or respect.
    Get it in hand, Minister! Start by telling us just what you intend for juveniles who need to be held in custody over the six months or more it will take to replace Bushmob’s management.
    I’m sure the whole community awaits your response with bated breath.

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  5. Come in Spinner
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Bushmob are such a bunch of spoilsports. No doubt the pollies and bureaucrats in Darwin were enjoying their regular catered morning teas to celebrate the success of the program.

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  6. Scarlett Grant
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    1) Where does this leave the five remaining if Priest Street is at capacity?
    2) What happened to the infrastrure from the defunct Abbott youth outstation that was government funded?
    3) Is it the case that there needs to be greater classification of those attending Loves Creek? Despite the commitment of Bushmob for some it may take longer than others and the classification may assist in negating some of the risk.

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  7. Laurence
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    And so the blame game starts. I’ve known Will MacGregor to do fantastic work with some very difficult to manage clients. I and others that have worked with / alongside him know him to be a honest and forthright man.
    The poisoned chalice that is juvenile justice is going to burn a lot of people (some deservedly so) before the farcical Royal Commission hands in it final report. Will the minister be the first to fall?
    Good on Bushmob for walking away from a no-win situation. What or who is next happy clappers or social justice warriors, not that SJWs will achieve anything but making themselves feel good.

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