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Australia Tennant Creek service workers see children out at 2:00am — they have nowhere safe to sleep

00:06  12 july  2018
00:06  12 july  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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Despite increased Northern Territory and Federal Government investment in services for the Tennant Creek community following the rape of a two-year-old girl in February, night patrol staff say some young people still don't have safe places to sleep .

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Seventy children per night are fed at the Barkly Council after-hours youth centre.© Provided by ABC News Seventy children per night are fed at the Barkly Council after-hours youth centre. In Tennant Creek, the Northern Territory town where a two-year-old girl was raped in February, it's the people who work at night who can best gauge whether the community's social problems are being better tackled.

"I will take children home at 2:00am in the morning, and every kid down to the ones in nappies will still be awake," Alba Brockie, the coordinator of the Barkly Regional Council's After Hours Youth Centre, said.

"They'll be outside the house running around on the road because there's no space inside the house."

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Tennant Creek is a town located in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is the seventh largest town in the Northern Territory, and is located on the Stuart Highway, just south of the intersection with the western terminus of the Barkly Highway.

Each night she feeds 70 children at the centre — where they also play sports and music, and create art projects — before they are given a lift home.

"Alba and the staff have it under control and supervise us, and there's no fighting here or no drunk people come here," 12-year-old Nakaylah Plummer said.

Often Ms Brockie has to bring children to the houses of several extended family members before she can find a place for them to stay where people aren't drunk.

"Young people will say to you themselves 'Keep going miss, keep going, they're drinking'. Or they'll say, 'Can you wait?' and then they'll come out and say 'I'm not staying here, I'm going to stay with somebody else'," she said.

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Tennant Creek service workers see children out at 2 : 00 am — they have nowhere safe to sleep https://ab.co/ 2 NH8sCx @abcnews pic.twitter.com/3hdDUnBgbM.

Fifteen children removed from families in Tennant Creek , NT says. Youth workers drive the streets at night taking children voluntarily home or, if home isn’t safe , somewhere else. Henry Barnes says the night patrol service in Tennant Creek helps get people home safe .

"It's tragic really."

'They'll break in to get a feed'

In March after the Territory Government imposed tougher restrictions on takeaway alcohol sales, demand for the centre's services dropped, but Ms Brockie said it has now returned to pre-restriction levels.

"Some young people still come here for their main feed of the day and if we're not open, and school is not on, they'll break in in order to get a feed," she said.

"We view it as a badge of honour that they only take food, and computer games and footballs stay behind."

She is keenly aware that the centre's $240,000 annual Territory Government budget only extends to being able to respond to the town's problems of poverty, welfare reliance and overcrowded housing, and to trying to tackle them.

"The most useful thing I think I could do is start working with families about raising their own kids. It's no good myself and other organisations like us raising other people's children for them," she said.

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Florida Department of Children and Families – Safe Sleep Campaign. If your baby takes the pacifier and it falls out after he falls asleep, you don’t have to put it back in. Safe Sleep Posters from U.S. Department of HealtH and Human Services National Institutes of Health Eunice Kennedy Shriver

'We have to give them to Children's Services'

Simon Johnston from the town's Federal Government-funded Julalikari Aboriginal Council Night Patrol still sometimes can't find any family where he can drop children found wandering the streets late at night.

"Sometimes we have to actually give children over to Children's Services because there's nowhere else to actually take them, that's not a nice feeling," he said.

Regularly children beg to come and stay with the officers.

"They stay a night or two, and the saddest part about it is, there's no-one actually looking for those kids. Whereas, if it was my kids I'd be driving round the whole town looking for them," he said.

Three months ago the Federal Government bolstered the adult night patrol service with pilot funding for a youth patrol.

Youth patrol officer Kade Green said because the children are fed sandwiches when they are picked up wandering the streets "the breaking into and stealing from shops has dropped".

'Children are safer without a doubt'

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion is still considering whether to keep funding the youth patrol.

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It has had three months of trial funding and its effectiveness will be officially reviewed before the Commonwealth decides whether it will become a permanent service.

"But it's looking fantastic. If the measure is 'Are the children safer because we've got youth patrol?' [Then the answer is] 'Without a doubt'. So on that measure it's very successful," Senator Scullion said.

The Territory Government has committed to providing more money to tackle housing overcrowding by building three replacement and five extra public houses with year.

It has committed $5 million for a better alcohol rehabilitation services building.

"We're not only investing in the Territory Families Department, we're investing in education, we're investing in housing, we're investing in more policing," Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield said.

Every night as she drives the kids home, Ms Brockie focuses firmly on her immediate task.

"You have to bury the sadness or you can't cope in the job, and so we have to look for the positives in it, and what I'm happy about is that … the young people who've come with us have had a feed and they've gone back to a safe place," she said.

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