Former MP Carol Martin calls for Government to change attitude to find youth crime solution in Geraldton

Matthew PaddickGeraldton Guardian
Carol Martin says the Government needs to change its attitude to find a solution to youth crime in the regions.
Camera IconCarol Martin says the Government needs to change its attitude to find a solution to youth crime in the regions. Credit: Jessica Moroney/RegionalHUB

A former MP and Geraldton Aboriginal engagement specialist has called on the State Government to find a practical solution to youth crime in the regions, following an alarming juvenile crime spree in Geraldton over the weekend.

Geraldton police arrested 10 juveniles over the weekend, with some as young as 10 years old.

Former Kimberley MLA Carol Martin, the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to any Australian Parliament, said she has seen the same patterns occurring over generations, through her work in the Department of Child Protection (DCP).

“Kids used to do this in 1981, the only difference is they have mobile phones now,” she said.

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“Something’s obviously not working, everything cycles where kids start playing up.

“They come from a setting where they live in poverty, and they go off and do silly things where they get an adrenaline rush which is better than being hungry.”

Geraldton-based Ms Martin said some kids chose not to be at home at night because they were not safe.

She believed the Government was not doing enough to address the source of the issue.

“They keep bringing in the same policies time and time again, expecting a different outcome,” Ms Martin said.

“They don’t speak to the people that are affected, and they don’t allow Aboriginal people to be a part of the solution.

“Deal with poverty, call it what it is.

“Locking kids up like animals does not work.”

In Geraldton, a number of youth services exist to address some of the issues, including some Government-run programs.

However, Ms Martin said they did not operate at the times when they were needed most.

“Midnight is when kids are out in the street, where are they (youth services)?” she said.

“We had a call roster when I was in the DCP, so if they had a kid out at night, I would get a call.

“It didn’t matter if it was three in the morning, we weren’t going to have them in the lockup.”

Ms Martin said it was not up to the police to solve all the issues.

However, she said a solution could be found by looking at services around the State.

Broome Youth and Families Hub’s HYPE (Helping Young People Engage) is a service which helps kids off the streets and gets them back home or to a safe place in the late hours of the evening, with a bus picking them up.

Ms Martin said the program worked, and a similar service could be implemented in Geraldton to assist if the right people and the right funding was there.

In particular, Ms Martin said getting people with the right training and the right mindset was paramount to helping the kids.

“I saw youth workers engaging with kids at their level,” she said.

“Simple things like sitting on the ground under a tree, not taking them to the office but actually sitting and talking with them.

“When these kids trust you, they’ll tell you what’s really happening, but nobody’s got around to doing that.”

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