Youthbeat reaching out to young people hanging around the city

Kids roam the streets in Perth CBD last Friday night. Picture: Matt Jelonek
Kids roam the streets in Perth CBD last Friday night. Picture: Matt Jelonek

AT least 40 kids linger on Wellington Street as cars try to navigate around them early on Saturday morning.

Nyoongar Outreach Service workers warn the kids to be careful but their warnings are ignored as the group walk towards the mall.

Considered a “hot spot” for youth hangouts, Mission Australia’s Youthbeat team frequent the Murray Street and Hay Street malls to help children on the streets late at night.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, a team of Youthbeat and Nyoongar Outreach Service workers, police officers and crisis care (Department of Child Protection and Family Support) workers ensure young people at risk in the CBD are taken home or to safe accommodation.

The response forms part of the Northbridge curfew implemented a few years ago to support young people in the CBD and Northbridge who were not supervised by a responsible adult.

Police are the only ones who can apprehend people and take them to Youthbeat’s Northbridge centre, where a maximum of 12 young people can stay at once until a responsible adult picks them up before 4am.

An outreach worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said young people came to the city from as far as 45 minutes away.

“It can be hard to get them home when the trains stop (after 2am),” she said.

“That’s when they are most at risk. They often get off at McIver Station because they think they’re less likely to get caught for not paying for tickets.

“For us, the warning signs are if there is a mix of really young and older people or if they’re really intoxicated or aggressive.”

The outreach workers keep a supply of jackets, water, snacks, blankets and even condoms, in case they are needed.

Some young teenagers socialise in large groups (some drinking alcohol), go ‘cadging’ (begging), or sit in small groups, talking and playing music.

The Youthbeat team stop in at city malls, Northbridge entertainment precincts and train stations, offering to help and support these at risk young people

The youth outreach workers have a direct line to the Perth camera room and they can reach police if young people are fighting or at risk of unlawful behaviour, as only police can remove them from the street.

The Regional Operations Groupalso have large capacity buses to apprehend large groups of young people apprehended in the surrounding suburbs, sometimes after they have attended out of control parties.

Section 41 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 determines that police officers may move a child or young person to a safe place if they are found somewhere other than their usual home if they are unsupervised, at risk or vulnerable to harm.

During Youth Week (April 8-16), Mission Australia has launched the 2016 Youth Survey; the largest nationwide poll for young Australians.

Last year, the survey identified alcohol and drugs (27 per cent), equity and discrimination (25 per cent), and the economy and financial matters (18.9 per cent) as the three main issues faced by youths.

Mission Australia state director Amanda Hunt said the annual survey gave insight into concerns and allowed those concerns to be considered by key decision makers such as politicians, policy makers and community organisations.

“This year we have included new focus questions to understand young people’s experiences of discrimination as well as questions focused on young people’s sense of community,” Ms Hunt said.

“The survey will also seek to understand young people’s participation in education, employment and community activities, their family and social support networks and their values and concerns.

“Our previous surveys have highlighted that today’s youths experience major challenges including high unemployment and the rapidly changing job market, coping with stress, school or study problems, the rising cost of housing and concerns around alcohol, drugs and mental health.”

The survey closes on July 31 and the results will be analysed and released before the end of the year.

Young people 15-19 are invited to have their say here.