Juvenile centres not the answer: Mundine
By SALLY GORDON
WARREN Mundine, national president of the Australian Labor Party and former Grafton resident, believes more resources should be channelled into the Clarence Valley's aspiring youth.
Mr Mundine, a former member of the NSW Attorney General's Juvenile Crime Prevention Committee, on a visit to the North Coast, said too much focus was placed on the country's disaffected youth, which robbed well-behaved children of the positive affirmation and attention they deserved.
He also claims that by placing children in juvenile detention centres, they were unable to develop the life skills needed to break the cycle of crime.
"We put a lot of money and effort into kids who are misbehaving or are having problems, while kids who are doing well are sometimes ignored," Mr Mundine said.
"Younger kids who are doing the right thing deserve a bit of a hand-up to help them in their studies or sports ... they are the ones who deserve the rewards."
Mr Mundine said he had read reports relating to the January 29 riot at South Grafton's Acmena juvenile detention centre, where staff were threatened and the facility's Clarence wing trashed.
He said although he wasn't aware of the specific issues at hand, locking kids behind bars was not the answer.
"Locking kids up in juvenile detention centres is like training grounds for kids to go in the big house and become criminals," he said.
"Eighty per cent of the kids who are put into juvenile justice centres stay with the system for life.
"That's not me saying that, that is what the NSW Attorney General's Department and Juvenile Justice Department is telling us."
The Sydney-based Labor stalwart, who was born in Grafton and lived in Kelly Street during his primary school years, said many of the youth issues, in areas like the Clarence, could be addressed from within the family unit.
He has suggested training programs for parents and youth camps that challenge kids with survival techniques, sports and group work.
Mr Mundine officially opened a new Labor Party office at Bellingen last week and said he would be making a few trips to the area over the next few months.