Everyone is talking about the “youth crisis” and the supposed spike in crime. These youth are often labelled BAD and many think they need to be in detention. But I know these youth. They are not Bad or Mad. They are SAD!”
Our assessments show most have undiagnosed depression and anxiety. These youth are psychologically distressed. These youth tell us they offend because they feel scared, stressed and angry, insecure and unsafe, uncared for and some offend just because they are hungry. Yes, they are perpetrators but I think they are VICTIMS too.
They tell us they grow up with grog, gambling, hunger, humbug, fights, brothers and fathers doing gaol time or dead too young. They don’t know what to do with their Pain, that smashes their insides, so they ACT OUT and smash their external worlds. They tell us they feel guilty and bad for hurting their communities, sad and a little bit worried.
Here are some STARK FACTS –
• 99% of all youth in detention in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal, male and aged from 10-17. Can you imagine? Just 10 years old!
• Suicide rates in NT are the highest in Australia and Australia has the highest in the world.
What do Aboriginal family members tell us :
We have “hurting hearts” …
“We want to teach the youth our stories before the old men die”
“We want our youth on country and not in custody”
“We all throw up our hands, we live under constant threat and constant sorry business and everyone asks, ‘what to do?’
Our organisation, Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment – CASSE for short – provides one solution. A solution that takes youth from custody to country. A solution that recognises and addresses their trauma. We are the only organisation that offers this dual cultural and therapeutic program. We take high-risk youth in the justice system out on country with family members and traditional owners.
Country is important because of its direct ancestral connections. There the youth make traditional tools such as boomerangs, shields, spears, have conversations with the elders and talk about goal time. They use old tools to make new tools for living. So far, Shields for Living, Tools for Life has supported 35 youths to create a new future.
What is important about making these traditional tools?
A ngangkari, a traditional Aboriginal healer, Martin Juggadai, tells us:
“If we do not have these tools we have nothing. We are nothing. We have no culture. “To make tjilirra is special. It makes us proud and strong to make them. It is the spirit of the grandfather inside you.”
And now we come to the absolute catalysing core of mental health and growth that our program provides – the feeling of REAL. These youth feel alive and real! The youth tell us they feel HAPPY, PROUD, SAFE And STRONG on our country camps. They tell new stories. The youth want to come on our camps court-mandated or not. We receive support and referrals from many agencies and communities. Our cultural camps offer a far more cost-effective option than detention.
For $50,000, we can purchase a new trailer with a combination kitchen and camper that offers functionality, quality, reliability and value for money. We can replace our rough, shanty bush kitchen.
In a heartbeat, we can give these troubled but amazing youth, the LIFE-CHANGING, LIFE GIVING TOOLS they need to STAY ALIVE. Please donate.
The Northern Territory's numbers in youth detention are soaring - ABC News. As more Aboriginal youth enter detention, CASSE’s cultural healing camp at Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre is an essential program that brings culture and Country into custody. pic.twitter.com/mWxZIPyRXl