Fast-tracking an Aboriginal Youth Centre for Kalgoorlie-Boulder at Maku Stadium will be a major step forward to engage disaffected Aboriginal teenagers following the death of Boulder teenager Elijah Doughty.
As a protest march took to Hannan Street again yesterday, many of them teenagers, respected elder Trevor Donaldson called on Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion to fast-track the proposed $5 million Aboriginal Youth Centre.
“It will cost about $5 million, that’s a bit of money, but if it saves one young Aboriginal life, then it is worth it,” said Mr Donaldson, a traditional custodian of country and senior member of the Goldfields Land and Sea Council.
Mr Donaldson said he was proud of the Aboriginal community’s peaceful response to Friday’s verdict in the trial of the man who ran down and killed Elijah in Gribble Creek, Boulder, in August last year.
He said a purpose-built youth centre, where schools, social services, the Aboriginal community, police and broader Goldfields community could contribute would go a long way to engaging Aboriginal teenagers. City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mayor John Bowler backed the call for a youth centre.
“We want somewhere these organisations can go to meet the youth, the ones who aren’t engaged are the ones we want to get to,” he said.
“There are many aspects that this sort of facility could look after, but it’s also a place where the kids can engage with each other.”
Mr Bowler praised Aboriginal leaders for their involvement in Friday’s protest and said it was important for the city to move forward together after the tragedy of Elijah’s death.
But Mr Bowler said education of Aboriginal teenagers was another key and he urged parents to take control and get their kids to school, rather than taking part in protest marches.
Referring to the youth centre proposal, Mr Donaldson said: “We don’t have one, we sent the application through to Prime Minister and Cabinet under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. We’d initially started that project to use Maku Stadium using that as the base, the hub.
“The kids have got nothing here in Kalgoorlie at the moment that caters specifically for their needs, which is culturally appropriate.
“Particularly we are looking out for the Aboriginal kids because after the suicides we had, we knew there was something missing here.
“Moving forward, since last week, it certainly highlights why we need something to cater for our youth in particular.
“One of the ideas was that mental health come and provide their services, education, all the other service providers around could use that as the gathering point and seeing the young folks there under their own roof.
“I’ve got grandchildren of my own and they’ve got nothing to do, so there is this gap within a big city like ours that is not catering for our kids.”
Goldfields-Esperance police Superintendent Darryl Gaunt said it was an issue that Kalgoorlie-Boulder did not have Aboriginal staff.
“We don’t actually have any Aboriginal staff or officers in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, that is a real problem for us and something we just have to continue to work on,” he said.
Plans to create more facilities for Kalgoorlie’s wayward youth, a key outcome of an “emergency summit” held in November after Elijah’s death are also being reviewed by the WA Government.
A summit in November was attended by former WA premier Colin Barnett, Mr Scullion and local Aboriginal elders, but plans to build more facilities in a bid to re-engage troubled youth have stalled.
Premier Mark McGowan said a $22 million Target 120 program, promised by Labor before the March election, would focus on WA’s 120 worst young offenders and assign a support person to their families to co-ordinate services from agencies including police, health, education, sport and recreation, corrective services and child protection.
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