Michaela Crowe is a 26-year-old Yinggarda woman from Carnarvon in Western Australia, where the state government recently invested more than $52 million in a new police and justice centre.
Rather than spending on prisons, Crowe would like to see greater investment in community development, and activities and programs for young people.
She knows from personal experience of seeing relatives and community members locked up, often for minor infringements, that the impacts upon families and communities are devastating.
Listen to her tell this story here.
Michaela Crowe writes:
I didn’t want to ring the police because there are too many young people being locked up already. They would have ended up behind bars, sent away to a detention centre, because they already had a record.
Locking them up wouldn’t have solved anything. It would have only caused more problems, and it takes away their childhood. They are only kids.
It’s causing so much sorrow for old people, seeing the young ones locked up. It’s bringing the elder people to their graves, knowing their children and grannies [grandchildren] are in and out of prison.
It causes terrible problems within families too; if someone can’t get to a family member’s funeral because they are in prison, this can cause rifts within families.
I’m not saying that jail is not a good thing for bad people, but too many are going to jail over silly little things, like not paying fines, or stealing a bottle of alcohol or a feed.
What the young people around here need are more activities and programs to keep them out of trouble. They need to be put in touch with culture, not drugs and alcohol.
It would help stop people drinking so much if we could have a youth centre with activities, and more family events, sports carnivals and cultural activities that are affordable for people.
I know of young men who have been in and out of jail because of neglect from family; they just need help to get their lives together. There’s no support for the young men who need the help.
There’s a lot of mistrust of the police. I’ve heard stories of people being bashed and threatened. To get a fairer system, we need more Aboriginal police and social workers, and just more Aboriginal people in the system generally.
There’s also a lot of racism in the police and justice system. There should be a specific number you can call to make complaints that will take the matter seriously.
My late grandfather, Mr Crowe, used to go to court to fight for the young people. He’d ask the magistrate not to lock them up, that he’d take them out bush and teach them some culture.
We need to see that happening again.
I have got two young children. I grew up with violence and alcohol. I don’t want that for them. I’d like to see a change in this town.
If my son is naughty, I tell him where the uncles have been and what it does to them. Jail takes away their pride and happiness. It causes so much grieving to the family.
For my family, we keep them strong by going bush and connecting them with culture. We go fishing all the time. If we get a lot of fish, we go out to the community and share it out with the old people.
We even get wood so they can sit around a fire because that’s giving them peace, they can have a grill, cook their meat, keep warm, tell a yarn and have a cup of tea out of the house.
We’re teaching the little ones how to make a fire, the bush way. We teach them how to survive, how to dig a soak near a river, how to cook in the ground, how to make dampers. They love the kangaroo tails.
The best thing is to get them in the outdoors, and teach them your way.
If I could talk to the PM, I’d say, “Lend a hand. Be more supportive and think not only of politics, but think of the Aboriginal people.”
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