What to do with juvenile offenders may be a topic of debate, meanwhile there's children on a special NSW Police watchlist in this region. We spoke to police, community workers, a psychology professor and an Aboriginal elder about the issue.
CHILDREN as young as nine are on a special NSW Police watchlist across the state for juvenile offenders, with 20 of them under surveillance in the Central West.
A NSW Police Force document released under Freedom of Information lists 392 recidivist offenders aged under 18 who are on a Suspect Target Management Plan (STMP).
The STMP lists children who are likely to commit more crimes and present a risk to the community. The youngest person on the list is nine.
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The program, which has existed since 2000, categorises offenders as extreme, high, medium or low risk. The risk levels for Central West STMP offenders were not revealed.
Of the 20 offenders in the Central West, Orange has the most (four), followed by Bathurst and Dubbo (three each).
Cobar, Coonamble, Young and Apsley (near Wellington) have two STMP offenders each, while Gulgong and Cumnock have one each.
Nominees are treated with respect and tolerance, but they are reminded that the community will not tolerate criminal behaviour.NSW Police youth and crime prevention commander Superintendent Mark Wall
NSW Police youth and crime prevention commander Superintendent Mark Wall said the STMP framework targets recidivist criminal offenders to prevent them from committing crimes and disrupt their capability to commit crime.
"An important part of its purpose is to help divert individuals away from criminal behaviour," he said.
"A thorough risk management framework is used to ensure the NSW Police Force is targeting the right people at the right times to reduce violence and crime in the community.
"While deliberately engaged by police, STMP nominees are treated with respect and tolerance, but they are reminded that the community will not tolerate criminal behaviour."
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Supt Wall said the NSW Police Force prioritises prevention, intervention and diversion when dealing with young people, which starts with positive engagement programs.
"We work closely with the PCYC on a range of programs that aim to get young people job ready, break the domestic violence cycle, prevent and reduce re-offending, bring disengaged youth back into the education system and improve the overall wellbeing of at-risk youth," he said.
"Police are also actively involved in programs and other strategies with relevant agencies aimed at engaging indigenous youth to prevent them from coming into police custody and into the justice system more generally."
Culture, upbringing and its impact on juvenile crime
ABORIGINAL children make up almost 50 per cent of recidivist offenders aged under 18 who are on a NSW Police watchlist.
Of the 392 juveniles on the list in NSW, 189 (48.2 per cent) are Aboriginal, a fact that has come as no surprise to Wiradjuri elder Dinawan Dyirribang.
He said the destruction of family units had resulted in disadvantage and poverty for many Aboriginal people.
"It all goes back to colonisation; it destroyed our family units that we had for tens of thousands of years," he said.
A lot of our kids feel like they're not welcome at school, even today.Wiradjuri elder Dinawan Dyirribang
"A lot of our kids feel like they're not welcome at school, even today."
This, Mr Dyirribang said, starts a cycle - the child wags or is suspended from school and that is when the anti-social or criminal behaviour can start.
"The education system does not suit our people. We never had a system where we sent our kids away for someone else to teach them," he said.
Charles Sturt University School of Psychology senior lecturer Dr Andrew McGrath said while there was not a lot of research into the issue, he suspected that "Aboriginal kids were much more of a target" in regional areas.
"It is alarming and it seems to be quite heavy-handed policing," he said.
"I think nobody in the criminal justice system is proud of this thing, this over-representation of Aboriginal kids in the criminal justice system. Forty-four per cent of all kids in custody are Aboriginal.
"Some people say it's because Aboriginal young people just offend more, other people say it's differential treatment by law authorities."
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Dr McGrath said, however, he was supportive of community-based solutions for juvenile offenders rather than detention.
"We know that detention isn't a deterrent ... it makes no difference in subsequent re-offending," he said.
NSW Police Chifley Police District youth liaison officer, Senior Constable Rachel Joyce, said juvenile crime was not just about Aboriginality and that circumstances and environment have more relevance.
We know that detention isn't a deterrent ... it makes no difference in subsequent re-offending.Charles Sturt University School of Psychology senior lecturer Dr Andrew McGrath
"I try to teach them that just because you've come from that type of family, it doesn't define you," she said.
Snr Const Joyce works with juveniles on the STMP watchlist, as well as other young offenders and "at-risk" children and aims to give them actions and education to help them see a way out of their situation.
"It's an issue if they've only got a person who is in jail or a criminal and that's their only role model," she said.
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"The only way you can break that cycle is if they have a role model who has their back. If a kid has a solid role model, they've got every chance of leading a life on track."
Snr Const said it was not easy to get on the STMP list, but it was easy to get off it.
"It's so difficult to get a kid on there, it's all about offending behaviour and repetition, but once the offending drops or stops then they're taken off the list," she said.
In Orange, the Bowen Community Technology Centre works to help all disadvantaged children and give them the ability and vision to see a better life.
Paula Townsend, who has managed the centre since it opened in 2008, has seen the lives of young people change for the better.
"I've seen young people be the first person in their family to get a job," she said.
"I think everyone should be working or looking to the future or working on future education or a trade or any job at all."
Education, she said, was key to everything.
Everybody at one stage has been bullied or had a racist remark said to them. You need to be able to rise above that.Bowen Community Technology Centre manager Paula Townsend
"If a kid's going to school every day and learning stuff, then they're going to be a better adult and they're going to be better for themselves," Ms Townsend said.
While acknowledging that almost half of the children on the watchlist were Aboriginal, she said people must look beyond their circumstances to succeed in life.
"Everybody at one stage has been bullied or had a racist remark said to them. You need to be able to rise above that," she said.
"You have to encourage your children to do better than you did. That's where a lot of people are losing it."
Youth project to help children at risk in region
AT-RISK Aboriginal youth are being targeted in a new program being rolled out in the Orana region.
Project Walwaay was developed to ensure Aboriginal youth identified as being at risk of entering the criminal justice system get the full support they need to stay on the right side of the law.
The Dubbo-based project was given an Aboriginal name Walwaay which means young man.
Sporting sessions and fun nights at Dubbo PCYC will be included, while Aboriginal elders and respected community members will act as mentors.
Project Walwaay will also be a referral pathway to the Indigenous Recruitment Our Way Delivery Program (IPROWD).
There will also be support for Aboriginal youth charged with offences to ensure appropriate bail, support services and specific programs post charging to give them the best chance to stay out of the criminal justice system.
NSW Police Western Region Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna said a dedicated team would lead the initiative and they had a "determination to see a better future for our children" in this region.
The road can seem pretty hard sometimes, but we want these children to know we will not give up.NSW Police Western Region Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna
"With the support of family, community, police and other government and non-government agencies we can build the kids' confidence and self-esteem to help them discover their real potential," he said.
"The road can seem pretty hard sometimes, but we want these children to know we will not give up.
"We are with them and we are determined to do everything we can to help them stay out of the criminal justice system."
Project Walwaay will be reviewed after six months.
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