Alice may follow Wadeye’s lead on street kids

2527 Wadeye hostel 3 OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Families Minister Dale Wakefield usually sidesteps questions why children roaming the streets at night, committing offences, are not taken into protective custody, a measure that police can apply to adults.

 

But an initiative in Wadeye – formerly Port Keats in the Top End – may point to a solution to problems that have Alice Springs stumped, and Ms Wakefield says: “I am really happy to look at it.”

 

The collaboration between a hostel, called Kardu Darrikardu Numida (photos), run by Aboriginal Hostels, with the primary and secondary schools there, run by the Catholic Church, has given excellent academic results and a very low truancy rate, according to a source speaking on the condition of not being named.

 

While Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and two elected members of the West Daly Regional Council praise the program, neither Aboriginal Hostels nor the schools’ senior staff will provide comment, despite several requests from the Alice Springs News Online since early on Tuesday.

 

Hostels has even asked us to channel our request, about something that was clearly shaping up as a “good news” story, through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra – but even that didn’t get results.

 

However, Senator Scullion, speaking to the News in Alice Springs this morning, says the project works for kids in the Wadeye – the biggest Aboriginal community in the NT – as well as young people from surrounding outstations.

 

Asked whether the kids are able to leave the 40-bed hostel during the night, Senator Scullion said: “They have to stay in the hostel at night, but there are obviously flexibilities because some parents live just down the road.

 

“The kids are usually allowed out only on weekends.

 

2527 Wadeye hostel 1 OK“They go from the hostel, as if it was their home, some 50 metres to the school. They go through school all day and then they come back home [at the hostel].

 

“They do their homework. It’s a gated facility. You can’t get in and out. They are providing a level of protection and safety for children, just like a [family] home would do.”

 

Should there be such a hostel in Alice Springs?

 

“I think it’s accepted that a failure of the one in Wadeye is that it wasn’s built slightly out of town. It wasn’t the intention to provide a home for people who live 20 metres away. Why would we provide a surrogate home when there is a home 20 metres away?”

 

What if the family home is dysfunctional?

 

“We have a number of Aboriginal Hostels in Alice Springs already,” Senator Scullion said.

 

The News put to him that Alice Springs has the problem of 150 to 200 kids being out at night getting into trouble and some committing offences. Could the system that operates in Wadeye succeed here?

 

“Well, I can say what I know about the kids in Wadeye is that they are in there voluntarily, and they volunteer to stay in. I’m not so sure what the nature is of the children you are referring to. It’s not like a prison. They want to stay there.”

 

What if the parents say to their kids we want you to stay there?

 

“In Wadeye that’s what happens. The parents agree with the kids and say, let’s get you into that facility. I can’t recall any circumstances where they are forced to be there.

 

“It’s a really wonderful little community, a lot of people trying to help out there with activities. You have a surrogate parenting process through the whole place.”

 

West Daly Regional Council Mayor John Wilson says the program is going well.

 

He says kids are happy to be boarding at the hostel: “There’s lots of sport. It keeps them active. They are not being bored at school.

 

“They don’t wander around at night. Staff can stop them.”

 

Deputy Mayor Terry Sams has a son and a nephew at the hostel and the high school.

 

“The feedback is the school is doing really well.”

 

Ms Wakefield, when asked by the News this morning, said the Wadeye initiative had been mentioned to her in Tennant Creek, which is interested in the scheme, “because they have that boarding facility there.

 

“It was one of the things I said I would follow up, because it is education and Federal.”

 

That means it wouldn’t come out of her budget.

 

 

 

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4 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. Marina
    Posted April 13, 2018 at 10:23 am

    The children roaming the streets at night and day would benefit from a drop-in centre which could have trampolines (like Bounce on the east coast).
    The kids are wired on Adrenalin and cortisol and in that state need calming.
    It is only once the traumatized child is calm that they can learn.
    Trampolines assist in the rewiring the brain.
    There really needs to be a therapeutic response to these kids. The Alice Springs youth Centre is a good place to start. Was $5m recently invested in this centre?

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  2. Hal Duell
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 9:41 am

    If this isn’t a better use for the old Anzac High School, I don’t know what is.
    The big danger of bulldozing the old school and ripping up Anzac Oval is that we will be left with another vacant block like Malanka when the art gallery goes to SA.
    Will the Gunner government listen? Yeah, right.

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  3. Posted April 5, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    This seems to me to be precisely the concept that Maya suggested and I supported for the old high school at Anzac Oval.
    Today comes the news of increased GST cutbacks to the Northern Territory but the NT Government seems hell-bent on spending taxpayers’ dollars it’s not going to have on capital works projects both here and in Darwin that are not supported by the majority of people (VOTERS).
    In the NT election campaign of 1977, virtually a referendum on impending Self-Government, Labor’s slogan was “First things first – statehood comes later.”
    In this year of the 40th anniversary of Self-Government, I say “First things first – focus on the kids.” Forget about underground carparks for public servants, four-lane boulevards cutting through public parks, a new museum to compete against MAGNT, or a national indigenous art gallery on the wrong site.
    We all need to get our priorities straight, not least the NT Government.

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  4. Michael Dean
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    I think at this point anything would be worth a go, but I would definitely love to see some of the Aboriginal corporations have a say and get on board if a suitable model was agreed upon.

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