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Australia NT youths are often in the news for the wrong reasons but they too have a story to tell

13:26  14 january  2020
13:26  14 january  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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This wrong reason is not quite so bad as the one which encour ages having a baby to save a rocky marriage. This old‐fashioned notion simply represents a worn an's insecurity over Even if the wrong rea sons for having children have been eliminated, they should have posi tive reasons for proceeding.

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a man wearing a red hat and looking at the camera: James Ryan lost both his parents before he was 13 years old and it left him figuring out life on his own. (ABC News: Ian Redfearn)© Provided by ABC NEWS James Ryan lost both his parents before he was 13 years old and it left him figuring out life on his own. (ABC News: Ian Redfearn) James Ryan calls a block of old social housing apartments in Nightcliff his "hood".

Its postcode, 0810, has become one of the things in his life he's proud of and it's graffitied all over his back fence.

The 30-year-old explained the postcode represented a place in the world where he had found belonging and security.

"Living in Darwin was a bit harder through gangs, not having money, drug influences," he said.

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"There were no role models when I was growing up."

With both his parents dead by the time he was 13, a vulnerable Mr Ryan was introduced to drugs in his early teens.

As a result, he said the chance of having a normal childhood — a time to develop, grow up and chase dreams — became unattainable as bad decisions began to define his young life.

"I couldn't get a job, I had just done too many bad things for someone to give me an opportunity for a job or for something to do," he said.

"So I've pretty much f***ed up most of my life."

This sense of insurmountable hopelessness and a lack of options, where drugs and crime often become destructive answers to boredom, is not unique among young people in the Top End.

'It was sort like a brotherhood'

Before Jaydee Martin, a child of divorced parents who escaped poverty in the Philippines and moved to Darwin, turned 15, marijuana and ecstasy became a personal means of escape.

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Could you tell me what you and your friends think about not relying on your parents? Are you ready to leave your family immediately after you finish school? To be independent in financial way means working or working and studying at the same time, which meant not having a happy student’s life.

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"When my parents separated, that sort of made me really angry because it felt really sad, seeing other people have their parents and having a single mum working three, four jobs was pretty hard," he said.

Mr Martin, now 26, said that an impulse to escape issues at home, combined with peer pressure, led to bad decisions.

"[Drugs] were like a social thing," he said.

"You come around to your friend's house, they're all there for the same reasons … it was sort like a brotherhood."

John Micaran, 26, has completed four years in jail for drug dealing.

He said it all started when, looking to banish boredom and find a thrill, he made the wrong friends.

"The [drugs] were more or less … trying to suppress a lot of things going on around me. A lot of things in life I didn't understand," he said.

The importance of a good role model is not lost on 13-year-old David James, who began getting into trouble with police at the age of eight.

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"I would just go with the flow, and I wouldn't really try to be good," he said.

He said finding the right crowd could be challenging in Darwin.

"Because Darwin is like basically, not really much things to do in Darwin, everyone just wants to be bad," he said.

As crime anxiety rises, so too does disadvantage

Over the past year, Territorians have been loudly voicing their frustration at a perceived rise in youth crime.

While police statistics show break-in rates in Darwin fell in 2019, police have not released specific figures for youth offenders.

The situation remains a hot-button issue in the Top End, however, culminating in a series of violent episodes late last year.

Headspace Northern Territory executive manager Jade Gooding said the Territory's youth were facing their own battles, being some of Australia's most disadvantaged young people.

In the 2018/19 financial year, Headspace NT saw 1,073 youth — 215 more young people than three years ago.

And new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows there had been a 24 per cent increase in NT youth seeking homelessness support since last year, mostly as a result of family violence.

"When you're living in a situation where you don't have access to clean water, food, a safe bed then you do make poor decisions," Mr Gooding said.

Change requires courage, community understanding

Mr Micaran has now found a job as a rehabilitation support worker.

But for many other young people who have grown up in a cycle of disadvantage, he believes it's an opportunity they might never get.

He wants the wider community to understand that turning one's life around isn't so easy.

"Your mentality is so conditioned to what you know," he said.

"It's going through that same cycle and you're trying to figure out different ways to break the cycle.

"It's really hard because you're scared of failure, you're scared of new things."

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