Operation Sweep to continue
By Sean Healy
PERTH — On April 27 the state government confirmed that it would be reactivating "Operation Sweep", aimed at getting young people under 18 off the streets of inner city Northbridge and Fremantle.
The police operation, under which hundreds of teenagers have been taken into custody, has aroused widespread opposition and claims that the operation contravenes the Child Welfare Act.
The act stipulates that juveniles taken into custody under it must be taken immediately either to their parents or to their school. Young people have been taken to local police stations instead. This apparent violation led to the operation being suspended in March.
On April 27 the government produced legal advice that the operation did not contravene the act. Taking young people to a police station was deemed the most "practical" way of returning them to their parents. Premier Richard Court also stated that the act would be amended to eliminate any ambiguity.
A day later, however, Fremantle City Council, one of the two main target areas, wrote to the police department that the operation "would not be welcome" in the port city. The Fremantle local community, including sections of small business, had previously been outspoken in their opposition to Sweep.
The wide opposition was reflected in a rally, film launch and open forum in Fremantle on May 6. The film, Malbara, Vida en la Calle, Youth Life in the Streets, was made by two young women, Gisella Gonzalez and Rebecca Delalande, who themselves live on the streets and who have been victimised by Operation Sweep.
The forum, attended by more than 150 people, featured a range of speakers, including from the Aboriginal Legal Service, Fremantle Youth Service, the Drug and Alcohol Unit, Perth Inner City Youth Service, Resistance and Jim Scott, MLA for the WA Greens. The night was organised by Colectiva and Resistance and was preceded by a very lively march through the streets of Fremantle.
The state government has just approved a plan for the establishment of "work camps" for young offenders and is set to introduce new juvenile justice legislation in June to replace the act passed by the ALP state government in 1992.