Sorry to my faithful readers who have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment of this project. Unfortunately I have been working long and crazy hours and haven't been able to give the time required to have this in on time. This week I ventured to the area near Bentley Village as I go there a lot and I could do this in small parts. Hopefully I will have next weeks blog up on time but in the meanwhile, here are the results from this little Close.
Lady Penrhyn Close is off Friendship Street, which is the street I polled first in this initiative. It's a busy Close, with children playing outside, riding bikes, scooters, jumping on small ramps and playing football. These kids are not from the same house, they are all neighbours, which is evidence that in this street at least, the sense of community is strong. The yards are neat, the doors are open and everyone was very happy to have a chat to me about the area.
These residents love living in this part of Cairns as they see it as vibrant and verging on great things. They are excited about the possible opening of Sugarworld for the holidays and the opening of the new all-abilities playground which is imminent. The half pipe on Robert Rd is an ideal destination for plenty of these residents children and they are happy with the facility down there. The lack of things for children to do is a problem but it's seen as a temporary one and with the school holidays fast approaching they are managing to fill their schedules anyway.
A spare $50 would pay for dinner (again) or go towards the electricity bill. Most of these homes are owned by the residents although there are a few renters and several public housing homes so it's a bit of a mixed bag. They are all happy though, and claim to have some fantastic neighbours, so it obviously works to have a balanced mix of housing.
The Cultural Precinct is seen as a requirement. The Eisteddfod is an event that plenty go to every year and with some having children at Bentley Park College they are also aware of the problems with having the Awards Night at the Convention Centre. Aside from children orientated events they did not mention any others they would consider attending when the facility is operational but they did say they would love to take the family to the museum, especially if it's similar to the one in Townsville and fully interactive.
There is one area of concern to all of these residents and it was mentioned on several occasions. At the end of this Close is a park. The park goes from Lady Penrhyn Close through to McLaughlan Rd. This means that it comes out at the front door of Bentley Park College. It makes for a nice shortcut for the residents to take their kids to school but it also makes a lovely haven for those who should be in school but would prefer to sit in groups in the park and smoke and drink.
It's become a really big problem, police have been called several times but only drive past outside school hours when they are dispersed. The school has sent over truancy officers and they move the kids on but within a few hours, they are back. None of the residents here have forgotten being a teenager and wagging the odd day of school. They mostly object to the loud foul language coming from the park, the excessive drinking and the abusive comments they get if they should venture in during the day with smaller children in tow for a swing. This behaviour has rendered a small park unusable and unsafe during school hours and that is seen as completely unacceptable. The fact is, it IS completely unacceptable. But what are the alternatives?
The local Councillor is either unaware or has no interest in the issue, it depends who you talk to, and the police only have a move on policy which is temporary at best. The school is sending officers over but only sporadically and the residents are annoyed. I am positive that this problem is one faced by locals all over Cairns where there is a fairly secluded park so close to a High School, so it can't be an issue for these residents alone.
This problem is escalating and recently has become a daily occurrence so something has obviously changed in the area. Is it due to the lack of healthy options for the kids? That there is currently no other place for them to go? I realise they should be in school, so maybe the issue is one concerning the school itself? Perhaps Bentley Park College is suspending students too quickly or maybe they are having a truly horrible time there for some reason and need to escape into drink and rowdy behaviour? I have no idea. This is merely conjecture and could be far from the truth. It just seems that if the problem was non-existent this time last year, something has gone wrong in the past 12 months, somewhere.
The kids are angry, they are gathering in groups and they are exhibiting bully tactics and anti-social habits.
More and more residents I speak to are dissatisfied with the school their children attend. The lack of adequate assistance for children with special needs is the biggest complaint but many are appalled at the culture of bullying that is prevalent in all of the local schools. Suspension of students didn't work when I was at school, why are there still no alternatives? You would think that in the years since then (and it's many more than I care to think about) they would have come up with some appropriate measures that would actually be affective. Instead we are still living in the rollercoaster world where we get called into the office because our child has been bullying, or is the recipient of bullying, the bully is sent home for a weeks 'rest' and then they come back and...surprise, surprise...bully again!
Zero tolerance just means more suspensions. It solves nothing. They need to offer counselling to bullies and the bullied, they need to ensure that the counselling is attended regularly and only then will they see results. In the adult world, we are charged with assault if we bully, or some other charge appropriate to the crime (note the word - crime). We are counselled and we pay the fine. If the bullying is really bad, we go to jail. I am not for one second suggesting that we send kids to jail for schoolyard bullying, however, I do believe strongly that counselling actually does achieve results. Most bullies have a reason for their behaviour but at the moment the action, not the cause, is the only thing looked at and if that doesn't change then neither will the bully.
The residents of this Close do not know who their Councillor is, but feel they are not being effective in their job. They said that if the job was being done adequately, they would know the name of the Councillor and would see them around the area. Fair enough.
The Christmas lights are out, the kids are playing on the street. This Close is full of the Christmas spirit. They are excited about the season ahead and just as excited about the future of the area. The park issue is one that will go away for a few months now as school ends in two weeks. Next year things may change, for the better? I don't know. Hopefully the schools will look more closely at the behaviour of their students from a different perspective, one which may just get some results. Kids who exhibit poor behaviour will invariably become adults who exhibit bad behaviour.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the lead-up to the festive season, go for a night drive to see all of the beautiful light displays and, if you haven't already, introduce yourself to the neighbours. A great neighbourhood starts with you.