We can no longer deny that there are communities in Queensland where this is so. In the last five years, as OPSO has travelled Queensland, we have repeatedly reported the problems and in some cases we have helped to change things.
But these problems are nationwide, not statewide. We need to look at some answers.
They are to be found first and foremost at school level, secondly at parent level, and thirdly with the community itself – its politicians, its policies and its policing.
Firstly, the schools
I have always understood that when we send a child to school, it is the responsibility of the school to keep them there. Roll call before each subject class can ensure they’re present – and in some schools this is becoming essential. If the child is missing from a class without appropriate reasons, then action – after-school detention, Saturday detention, weekend detention. The Saturday/weekend detention can be done at one central place in the community – staffed by detention officers and lessons set beforehand by the subject teachers.
All of us are aware that in some suburbs and towns, youths are roaming the streets and shopping centres in school hours. It is the responsibility of the Education Department to deal with them, to ensure they are kept where their parents sent them – at school.
Secondly, the parents
We live in a ‘give me’ society – but how much should we give the children? Surely our first responsibility is to ensure they earn what they are given by good behaviour, and lose what they have for bad behaviour.
While it is the school’s responsibility to know where their pupils are and to ensure they stay at school, it is the parents’ responsibility to know where they are out of school hours.
What about fining parents who have provided alcohol to underage drinkers or who know the child is drinking and do nothing? Perhaps they should be fined for the damage caused to property by their under 16s!
Thirdly, the community
Let’s help the parents. Let’s provide youth centres where the young ones can ‘hang out’. Get the seniors in the community to pass on skills to the young, help them set up their own bands so they can party there of a weekend, learn to pull down a motor and rebuild a car. Learn arts and crafts that once upon a time they would have learned within the family. Have exhibitions of their work. Let them run their own show with a committee of young adults elected by the youth of the community.
Once upon a time most of them were earning their own living and responsible for themselves by 14 years of age. We took responsibility away from them in this ‘give me’ society.
It’s time we gave it back, in centres that help to make them responsible for an active and fun social life – not just hanging out in the shopping centres and streets. Perhaps these shopping centres could find room for a Youth Community Centre.
– Val French AM