WA PCYC Conference Perth 2016

On October the 26th and 27th, delegates from Victoria Blue Light attended at the National Youth and Community Justice Conference hosted by Western Australia PCYC at Burswood on Swan.

Aboriginal Elder Neville Collard conducted a traditional welcome acknowledging the land of the ‘Noongar’ people, the traditional aboriginal owners of the site before handing over to our MC.

The conference was hosted by Verity James, a very quirky and personable woman!  Verity has been one of Perth’s leading TV and radio presenters for over 25 years.  She kept the conference running almost to the minute and entertained us with her unexpected sense of humour!

Keynote speakers included Dr Sue Gordon.  Sue was appointed as the Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning in 1986 and was the first Aboriginal person to head a government department in WA. She was also appointed the first Aboriginal Magistrate in the state’s history.  Sue had a really interesting story to tell us about her life, being raised in state care after being removed from her family.  Sue is a true inspiration having overcome so many obstacles in her life, to go on to become one of the most respected Elders in the Aboriginal Community.  She also became the first Aboriginal PCYS President and continues to work tirelessly to support the community and the young people.

“Money spent at the front end delivers much greater value than spending to deal with problems at the back end” – The Honourable Wayne Martin AC, QC, Chief Justice of Western Australia

The Honourable Wayne Martin AC, QC, Chief Justice of Western Australia spoke about the rates of Indigenous incarceration.  In 1989, 2600 out of 90,000 people incarcerated were Aboriginal. In 2016, the rate is 4000 out of 100,000.  So the numbers are not reducing, they are increasing.  Mr Martin went on to say that if the prison population were to increase by 10%, the crime rate would only reduce by 1%, indicating that incarceration is not the answer.  He further stated that 52% of prisoners would return to prison.

He reinforced how ineffective a punitive approach is with studies identifying that when young people enter the prison system over and over that their prospects of rehabilitation are reduced.  In many cases their situations become a hopeless cycle. Interestingly he passed comment on the age at which a young person can be deemed criminally responsible of committing a crime, in Victoria (all of Australia in fact) the age is ten (10), this is not so in many other overseas jurisdictions, in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway & Sweden for instance the age is 15.  A much greater and intense welfare related approach to youth is therefore taken.

He spoke about what he described as ‘intergenerational trauma’ which is very much aligned to what we heard from Professor Mark Halsey at our recent Blue Light Youth Conference.  He felt that PCYC & Blue Light are best placed to assist local communities to develop their capacity in treating the underlying issues affecting many at risk young people through diversionary programs.

In summary, he stressed that preventative programs and early intervention are the key, particularly so for our young people.  He urged a move away from punitive policy to a community intervention model.

Federal Police Commander Brian McDonald from the Centre for Counter Terrorism presented.  Brian discussed the fact that it is a given that everyone has access to a weapon, whether it be a kitchen knife, piece of rope etc.  Young people are staying up all night watching social media for ISIL killings.  He talked about the ISIL magazine Rumiyah.  This magazine is very bold, is not hidden, easy to access if you want to access it.  Brian provided some insights into the way ISIL uses social media to spread their message.  They want the community to do their dirty work and carry out their attacks, hence the recruitment and radicalisation of young people.  Brian discussed some signs that young people may be becoming radicalised, such as spending time locked away in their bedrooms on the internet, secretive about online viewing habits, use of online networking platforms to promote violence, downloading large amounts of violence extremist content.  The process is unique to each person.  Early intervention is best for these young people.  He recommends using the National Security Hotline 1800123400.  He further stated that prison does not actually de-radicalise a person.  Work must be done with community members that have an impact on the youth.

John (Jock) Gillespe, the CEO of WA PCYC addressed delegates.  Jock was a serving WA police member from 1974 until 2005.  He spoke about the challenges and successes of WA PCYC over the years and talked about the transition they went through from police to civilian management. Their transition has been similar to that of Victoria Blue Light, indicating that PCYC needed to be more aligned with the needs of WA youth policing priorities. PCYC is also facing challenges with dealing with increasing facility costs and is now looking at ways to become more mobile and flexible. As well as this he believes that the sector must seek to avoid multiple agencies competing against each other for funding to supply the same or similar services. Jock indicated that he would be keen to run a workshop with members from other states to discuss work in the youth space.  He stated, you can’t keep increasing the police force without increasing youth services in the community.  More police will mean more arrests, therefore more young people to deal with and less services available.  There are many services within the youth space that don’t talk to each other working with the same young people.

Comedian Andrew Horabin was extremely easy to listen to.  With a demeanour similar to that of Carl Barron, Andrew has written a book called “Bullshift Get More Honesty and Straight Talk at Work.”  Andrew kept us entertained by calling us all out on some of the excuses by running a quick survey. Each question was a score out of 10, with a total out of 170.  Different scores meant different things, for example, if you scored between 30-60, he says this is not healthy. “Maybe you need to leave the workplace if you can’t change it or yourself.  Is there someone or something that can help you to build the courage for a more honest life?”  A score of 130-150 was very good, but he says a score of 150-170 is “Bullshit”!  He talked about ‘shifting the bull’ in the workplace.  So many of us make excuses for things, eg, you didn’t do a particular task, your common response to your boss is “I didn’t get around to it, haven’t had time”, he says the real reason is that you prioritised other tasks and left this one out.  Andrew was very interesting and entertaining, and I found myself relating to so much of what he had to say.

Mr Chris Dawson from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission spoke about cybercrime stating that 5 million Australians are affected by some form of cybercrime as we speak. He went on to speak about organised crime syndicates impacting Australia and stated that:

Chris Dawson APM – Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

  • 68% of drug labs are located in metropolitan areas. 70% of Australia’s most serious criminal networks are based off shore and have off shore links.
  • Australia has the highest rates of Methamphetamine (ICE) use in the world.
  • The bulk of ICE is imported into Australia from China.
  • Serious and organised crime cost Australia 36 billion in 2013 – 2014 or 24% of the entire social security budget.
  • The likelihood a of an ICE user committing a property crime is 4 x times what is considered normal.

Again he stressed the importance of early intervention and prevention being much more effective than a reactive approach.

Dr Karl O’Callaghan has been the Chief Commissioner of WA Police since 2004.  He is currently leading WA Police through a restructure of its operations called Frontline 2020, designed to future-proof the agency against the pressures of social and economic change.  Dr O’Callaghan was a very frank and open speaker, talked about his own personal experiences with a son that is currently in prison because of an ice addiction.  He spoke about the direction of WA Police in balancing how to deal with volume crime and still maintaining a community policing approach.  He talked about the fact that there are very few if any programs available for young recidivist offenders and no options for rehabilitation, however PCYC is one organisation that will work with these young people.  They have problems engaging with young people when the parents won’t encourage them to engage.  He indicated that police need to take the lead until the other services catch up.  Their challenge is where to best place our resources to focus on the priorities, I think that we can all agree that this would be a challenge to us all.  He talked about the necessity of long term government support, however we need to be able to evaluate and report back on our outcomes to government for this to happen.  Dr O’Callaghan went on to talk about some of the specific issues in WA, many of them similar to us here in Victoria.

Karl spoke of the transition & civilianisation of PCYC while remaining linked to police.  He highlighted the importance of establishing KPI’S and a means of measuring and quantifying results.  “We must be able to clearly demonstrate what impact our programs have”.  Governments increasingly want to know the answer to “what difference you are making.”

Each state then presented on what some of the programs are for them within the PCYC area.  Our friends from New Zealand stood out as they always do with their programs, the number of civilian paid staff they have over there and the amount of successful programs that they run for their young people.  This conference was very PCYC heavy, however the programs and activities that we are running here in Victoria are all things that the other states are running within their PCYCs, the small differences are that we are more mobile, we don’t rely on a building to run out programs from and of course the name.  We are all here for the same reasons and for the same outcomes.

This was a very worthwhile conference and I believe that all delegates got quite a bit out of attending.

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