Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bored kids = random acts of stupidity.

There is a small problem in the southern corridor of Cairns that needs addressing. It's the amount of children that reside here. I call it a small problem only because they are. Small, that is. The problem is actually a large one and it's growing all the time.

The Cairns Post front page states the need for more schools on the south side of Cairns as this area has more school age children than anywhere else in North Queensland. After watching the flood coverage and the pictures of the devastated areas I have come to realise that the area known as North Queensland is very, very big. If this area has so many children I would like to know why they are being ignored?

The need for more schools is a given. Please hurry up and build them and for God's sakes don't make their catchment areas so darned tiny! When enrolling my children in school I rang the Department of Education in Brisbane to enquire about which schools would be available to me. Due to the fact that I have a 'quirky' daughter I had two schools in mind for her to attend. Neither one was in my 'catchment area' but both are in my suburb. When I asked the person on the other end of the phone what my options were if I wanted to ask for special permission for her to apply at one of these schools I was told to do what 'all the other parents do'....fake my address. Seriously? If I had to resort to that option in order to get my daughter an education, surely we are making parents lives much too hard.

Needless to say, we didn't go via that route. Luckily there are other schools in the area that were very happy to have my child (and the following two) and they were very understanding of her needs. Unfortunately, they also cost a fair chunk of cash to utilise, so the swimming lessons became a luxury item that was out of our reach. No parent should have to choose between lying or paying through the teeth just to get their child a good start in life.

Beyond the schooling issue however, is a far bigger one that is being completely overlooked in the planning and implementation of facilities in the area. It's fine to build more schools, great even. That takes care of 6 hours of the day, 5 days a week. What do you do with the kids when school is out and on weekends? There are several good parks and Sugarworld is half open, giving children some outlet for all that energy they have. Plenty of children are not that active though. What do those children do? Where do they go?

Oh, I am not referring to young kids who should be wherever their parents are. I am talking about teenagers. The ones who are old enough to travel by bike or on foot around the suburb, exploring and socialising. At the moment, these kids have a serious lack of things to do with their spare time. Going somewhere to play sport, skate or ride the BMX is fine for three days a week (and if you can find somewhere suitable). Then there are the other four to fill in. Why has this area got no pool hall? Why is there no games hall? Or a cafe that caters to teens and young adults? I realise that those are facilities that would require business operation, not Council or Government, but I still ask the question anyway. If this area has so many school kids, one would assume that plenty of those are in their teens. Somebody needs to open a business on this side of town to cater to this demographic. I guarantee you it would be popular.

Bored kids make stupid choices. They steal from cars. They wander about vandalising property. They make a general nuisance of themselves. They are not bad kids. There is nothing in their DNA that shouts evil or nasty. They just need something to do! A pool hall or a games place is not constructive, will not utilise their growing brains and won't solve the health issues of our youth. It will however, get our children to socialise, instead of sitting at home in their rooms on a computer playing games, they could be with their peers and included in actual conversation while playing the same games they would play at home.

Cinemas are coming to the south side when the Edmonton Town Centre is up and running. At least, it's been suggested that they will. Fantastic, bring it on. I realise it's a fair way off but as long as it happens I am all for it. It's not just children who would benefit from that particular pastime, the whole community would attend.

There is a study being undertaken regarding the possibility of building a skate park in the Bentley Park/Mt Sheridan area, one more useful and expansive than the simple half pipe in Robert Road. Again, a great idea. Consulting with those potentially using the facility before design and construction is an excellent idea as too many decisions are made and buildings built without consultation, resulting in inappropriate development that nobody uses.

The idea being bandied about that this area could be the perfect area for a new PCYC is also a fantastic idea. A PCYC would encompass many of the things I have mentioned and is run along strict guidelines with excellent results. Hurry up and decide, then hurry up and build it.

The population explosion from White Rock to Gordonvale is all inclusive. Children are naturally a large part of that growth and need to be catered for just as much as the adults do. They already feel disconnected and alienated so let's not exacerbate that problem any further by ignoring them when we choose what to build out here.

By all means, start tomorrow with building a new school, just don't forget to give the kids something to do when they aren't there.


  1. Leigh I am in absolute agreement with you on this one. We have one council youth officer who controls from white rock to yarrabah, her funding is poor, she is hamstrung by the system.
    On the other side the rock church and uniting church are trying there best to help but the size of the job is rather large.
    Most of the time through work I am spending more time dealing with youths and police, lately some as young as 12, I took this problem to a council deputation during the Sugarworld battle as well.
    My view is firstly we need a strategy of what we think our youth needs are. That means Us, the churches, council youth co-ordinator, Rob Pyne, Nancy(but i doubt she would support US, as hasnt before)and invite any other people or organistaions that want to have input,indigenious youth co ordinators, Curtis pitt.
    Once we have a strategy we need to hold a youth day at Ravizza park, this cannot succeed without the youth having input and taking some onwnership of it. Youth day could be like the pets in park thing with all youth organisations invited to have stalls,sports ppl,some bands to attract the kids, etc. With the end result to get them to put across what they would like in there community.
    The South end of town doesnt even have a drop in centre for kids..and we have such a diverse group of kids from all situations in life living in the southern corridor now.

  2. So it's boredom?. Not abuse, neglect, community wide dysfunction, family breakdowns or alcoholic/drug/gambling addicted parents/caregivers that's the root cause of youth offending - 'acting out'? ...

    ... it must be. We don't have those other things in the suburbs eh?.

    Yep, buy 'em a pool table and somewhere to drink instant decaffeinated coffee - problem solved eh?

    You know what's missing in these kids lives?

    Responsible [response-able] parents and reasonable, consistent boundaries.

    But no-one wants to hear that and even less people are capable of providing it.

    It's an inside job. Everything else is just well meaning sound bites and job creation/justification.

    ... but, of course. That can't be right eh?.

  3. Crash,

    It's all of those things. None more prevalent than another and all requiring assistance and programs that are proven successes.

    There is a fantastic initiative in the Southern Corridor run through Mission Australia comprising of a Reference Panel which gathers together all interested parties and galvanises them into action. Some of those groups include Mission Australia, Lifeline, Volunteers Australia, an after-school group at Woree School which offers help for students who are falling behind and many others.

    This initiative is extremely pro-active and decisions are made immediately and followed through from the day of the meeting onwards. It's the most active group I have ever been involved in and it astounds me every time with it's instant rewards.

    There are many church groups in the area which are also pro-active in the region and are implementing various schemes to help the community.

    The Edmonton Community Health Centre runs Triple P parenting programs regularly and Hambledon House has programs which help teach good nutrition for young families which is very successful.

    There are many factors in this issue, I was merely pointing out one. The boredom factor was recognised in the Mooroobool/Manoora area several years ago and that particular part of Cairns began to cater to it's youth in positive ways. Encouraging social gatherings and play in a structured environment which has led to huge improvements in those suburbs youth problems.

    The old adage is takes a village to raise a child.

    The entire community needs to be involved. We no longer have the luxury of extended family nearby. Once upon a time, a family would gather weekly for a meal, spending the day cooking up a feast and teaching each other how to function and survive in the world. With families so disconnected now and often great distances apart, it appears that the community should take a more interested and inclusive role in helping to raise children.