Commentary by Pamela Nathan, Director of CASSE Aboriginal Australia Relations Program
The Mayor of the Northern Territory town of Alice Springs, Matt Patterson, pleads with about 40 Australian federal ministers, senators, and state legislators for help with the current criminal crisis. The crime rates reportedly went up in 2020-21, particularly property offences, including commercial.
Paterson writes that collaboration involving the entire community and all institutions is the key to solving the current crisis. He says, “At the local government level, there are limits to what you can do with crime, but this is a call for help. Something needs to be changed immediately.”
Cultural healing camps – A collaborative response
CASSE believes the criminal crisis is a crisis not just for the town but for the youth. We wholeheartedly agree with Paterson that collaboration involving the whole community and organisations from a position of concern and altruism is imperative. Importantly, the Aboriginal community at large says it wants its youth on country and not in custody.
Winnicott, a well-known psychoanalyst, said people/youth who engage in anti-social behaviour are seeking help. He says it is important to recognise there is hope and potential to be found in criminal action and requires the community to recognise, reflect and action.
Many of the youth live in overcrowded houses and are disengaged from mainstream education and employment. They may also be disinherited or disengaged from cultural life, given generations of dispossession, rendering them even more vulnerable. Attending CASSE camps, as Robert Hoosan describes above, reconnects youth to their culture. Cultural reconnection increases cultural competency and indisputable evidence shows that cultural competency mitigates crime and recidivism and enhances social and emotional well-being. The youth tell us they feel “safe, strong and proud” on our cultural camps.
CASSE has good relations with the youth in town and relevant organisations and works with communities and elders and youth on remote communities building on relationships, strengthening identity, self-esteem and cultural connections. CASSE can help the at-risk youth in the way they and their families have asked to be helped by delivering cultural camps, and you can help us help them.