A GPS to a better life


How sad I was, listening to the comments, on ABC’s AM the other morning, by twelve year old ‘Elise’ (pseudonym) from Kununurra, who someday soon “wants to stop stealing, breaking in…’cause it’s bad. I want to be good and have a happy family.” The story revolved around the issue of children, some as young as eight, roaming the streets of Kununurra in Western Australia, because it’s safer than being at home.

The same problems have been occurring in towns in western NSW for years. Aboriginal Elders and community members have repeatedly expressed their concerns to successive Governments, worked with under-resourced department officials, participated in numerous initiatives, but their concerns are not being allayed, in fact they are growing.

More and more funds are being poured into programs in schools, where Principals are tasked with providing everything from clean showers and breakfast to transport services and after-hours support. Teachers are expected to provide the guidance, encouragement and structure normally reserved for and undertaken by, parents. But they only have six hours a day with the children who, in some cases, only show up because if their attendance drops below 80% it affects the payments their parents receive.

We have created a problem that no one wants to truly tackle. Those who are closest to the problems can see what needs to happen; unfortunately the decision makers spend little or no time in communities and don’t like taking advice. How can we continue to polish our ‘developed, First World’ veneer whilst children in our own back yard are living in Third World conditions? How long are we going to allow them to be used like a debit card at the ATM?

Occasionally, very occasionally, there are wins. Children who are able to see there are many paths to be chosen if you have the right directions. It must be these few “wins” and small gains in self-respect that keep teachers and overworked, under-resourced departmental staff from becoming totally overwhelmed with the task at hand.

At least they’re ‘having a go’.

3 thoughts on “A GPS to a better life

  1. I heard this broadcast as well, heartbreaking…we have a big problem here at Kempsey too, but at least we have PCYC and other initiatives helping to address the issues…I don’t know where the solution lies, and our elected representatives certainly aren’t interested, except to harrumph about the high crime rates in our area.. we are a low socio-economic district with all the disadvantages that entails….

  2. Hi Tanya,
    I believe that Indigenous communities will gradually come together and have the structure of elders, and children working together to create a stronger future. When I see the programs on NITV it reports on programs that are working to not only celebrate Aboriginality, but the coming together of the whole community. Slowly things are improving.

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