As the Prime Minister and Chief Minister meet to discuss our children, our families and our community, Senior Arrernte leaders of Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe (Children’s Ground) invite the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, federal and state Senators and MPs Linda Burney, Senator Patrick Dodson and others, to come and sit down and discuss with us these serious issues and to listen to our voices.
Sensationalism of the events in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) by the media is placing First Nations young people at risk.
The spotlight that has been put onto the children and young people living in Mparntwe has failed to give our senior Arrernte leaders a voice.
This is the country of the Arrernte nation. We have strong leadership through Lhere Artepe, Children’s Ground and Akeyulerre, all Arrernte-led organisations.
“We have been made to look like we are turning a blind eye to our children. We see that some First Nations people are swayed to support the implementation of more police and the deployment of military-style resources into our streets,” they said.
“Their voices are not our voices. We have suffered years of heavy policing, and this has not worked. This has been the governments answer for too many years. It has caused more harm. At the same time our solutions are being ignored.
“We acknowledge that there are significant struggles for First Nations youth across Mparntwe. We know this because these are our children. Our families want our young people to stop causing damage, to stop stealing and break-ins. This is not our culture, and this is not our way. What they are doing is not right.
“We also see their pain. They are acting out against a world that is not made for them. This is compounding the challenges for a nation of people with a history of being excluded, disempowered and restrained by Western laws and policies.
“Our young people are hurting. There are few opportunities for them in a landscape of poor housing, poor infrastructure, racism, poverty and education systems that fail them.”
Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe is a First Nations-led solution to social, cultural and justice reform created by our old people who saw the Western system of justice, education and health were failing our families.
Within the Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe approach, Arrernte Elders utilise their continued knowledge and skills of thousands of years, to influence the future of our little ones, and for the many generations to come.
The Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe approach centres around strengthening culture and language, delivering on-country learning, health, cultural and governance expertise that has sustained our Arrernte and First Nations culture for generations.
This will deliver outcomes and prevent youth risk, harm and harmful behaviours. We know that giving families the tools to break intergenerational trauma and backing them with great resources will create change.
We are doing it and it is working.
Cassandra Neil, a First Nations Arrernte educator at Uyenpere Atwatye (Hidden Valley Town Camp), said: “Our children don’t need to be locked up, we don’t need the police at our doors.
“We need funding for our communities. We want proper facilities. We will keep supporting our children and families and we will keep running our programs for our children, through our culture and our languages. We know this is the answer. We need Government to come and support us and listen.”
At Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe, we have solutions that are embedded in our culture. People need to understand this is not an overnight fix, through band-aid approaches. These long-term problems began at colonisation and have escalated over time, without support.
We have a 25-year strategy. Supporting our next generation to prevent the next generation of young people from being lost.
At the same time, we want to work with our young people so that they know that they are loved, that they are safe and that they belong and to work with them so that they can see a future for themselves.
[Children’s Ground or Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe is a not-for-profit organisation designed with and led by First Nations people to end enduring injustice and disadvantage. It released this statement on January 24.]