Indigenous children unsafe in Australia: Report

Seeing footage of young indigenous individuals forcefully hitting glass doors and attempting to break through windows is shocking and signals a profound crisis affecting children in numerous regional areas. While Alice Springs may dominate the headlines, this issue of children engaging in dangerous activities, rising youth crime, violence, and, in some instances, death, is widespread across the nation.

The recent deaths of two youths in car accidents have sparked significant unrest in Alice Springs, prompting the Northern Territory government to declare an emergency situation that includes a youth curfew in the city center for two weeks. This period is intended to offer a chance for the community to recuperate. The pain, loss, and need for a turning point are felt by many, including myself, as an Arrernte/Luritja woman for whom Alice Springs, or Mparntwe, is home.

However, the foremost concern must be the safety of our children, who currently face unsafe environments and exposure to violence at unacceptable levels, putting their well-being at risk. This situation does not reflect our cultural values. Our heritage, spanning over 60,000 years, is rich with wisdom on nurturing happy, thriving children, and this knowledge deserves recognition and respect. In the coming two weeks, I urge leaders at all levels, organizations, and business representatives to unite and devise immediate, mid-term, and long-term strategies to make Alice Springs a secure place for our children.

Our community’s priority must be the safety and well-being of our children, ensuring they have safe places to be and that families in need receive support. Crucially, the perspectives of local Aboriginal people must be prioritized, encompassing a broad spectrum of experiences and insights, especially those of our youth.

The issues we face are the culmination of decades of governmental neglect and discriminatory policies against Aboriginal people. There’s no simple solution; arresting our way out of this crisis, focusing solely on alcohol and substance misuse, or incarcerating our youth will not resolve the underlying issues. The correlation between increasing youth crime and the rising numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being taken from their families cannot be ignored.

Evidence shows that access to quality, Aboriginal-led early education and supportive services can significantly impact children’s development and school readiness, keeping families together and enabling children to thrive in their cultural identity. By supporting our children and families early, we can disrupt the path that leads from the child protection system to the youth justice system.

Our community possesses the knowledge and place-based solutions needed to change our current trajectory and ensure a safer environment for our children. Ironically, this call for action comes at a time when the nation has recently turned away from formally recognizing the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Yet, as the demand for our engagement grows, it’s imperative that everyone listens and acts responsibly.

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