Categories
Social Commentary Social Justice Youth

My Reaction to Naming & Shaming Young Offenders

In reaction to the Queensland Government’s move to name & shame young offenders as young as ten, I wrote this piece for the ABC.

Being seen to be tough on crime is Politics 101. It’s a guaranteed vote-winner. It creates good copy for the tabloids, and “naming and shaming” is the bread and butter of any self-respecting shock jock. It’s even better if you can blame your opponents for the apparent crime wave.

You can read the full article here.

You can also listen to a radio interview I gave on Melbourne’s SYN 90.7FM

Categories
Media Social Commentary Youth

Sex, Drugs, The Media & Our Kids

I originally write this for my regular Generation Next column

In the weeks since that Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs, more fuel has been poured onto the fiery debate around the overtly sexual messages our kids are receiving thanks to the media.

Add this to the heady mix of alcohol, violence and drug use with the apparent rise of such related anti-social behaviour of our teenagers – once again commentators are calling on the media to pull its collective head in.

Just this Sunday, I was watching a movie with my five year-old son that featured, amongst other things:

• Every second character, including the two lead characters smoking.
• Every second character, including the two lead characters drinking alcohol.
• Drink spiking.
• A drunken bar room brawl that involved guns, knives and king hits.

The brawl only subsided when a stripper appeared on stage, dressed all in blue (the relevance of this will be apparent shortly) and began to sing,

Hey fellas
The time is right
Get ready
Tonight’s the night
Boys, what you’re hopin’ for will come true
Let me be good to you

You tough guys
You’re feelin’ all alone
You rough guys
The best o’ you sailors and bums
All o’ my chums

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
You won’t be misunderstood
Let me be good to you

Hey fellas
I’ll take off all my blues
Hey fellas
There’s nothin’ I won’t do
Just for you

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
Hey boys, I’m talkin’ to you
Your baby’y gonna come through
Let me be good to you

I reckon Miley herself would be pretty happy with those lyrics.

I know what you’re thinking…

“Haesler! What are you playing at letting your five year old boy watch an episode of Underbelly?”

But it wasn’t Underbelly.

It was Walt Disney’s 1986 animated classic, The Great Mouse DetectiveGreat Mouse Detective

Making $40 million – in the 80s – the film is widely acknowledged as being the saviour of Disney, after some less-than-stellar releases. It appears that even back then sex, violence, alcohol and drugs sold, and sold well.

Kids have always been subjected to these kind of messages, but I think we underestimate our youth – and the adults in their lives – when we believe whatever they see they’ll do.

Melinda Tankard-Reist wrote in her Fairfax column this week that the young girls she’d spoken to since the Miley performance were in no way influenced to act the same way. Some of the comments from the girls aged 12 and 13 were:

”She thinks it’s cool, she’ll attract more people, but she hasn’t.”
”She used to be inspirational, we used to look up to her, now she’s ruined herself.”
”The performance portrayed a negative image of women.”

I would guess that these girls have strong role models in their lives, be they male or female, parents or otherwise. And I think that’s the point.

Of course the proliferation of the media has meant kids are getting these messages more often, but we can’t underestimate the power of a good adult role model and their ability to dilute, deflect or redefine these messages so kids can watch The Great Mouse Detective without becoming drunken gun-slinging strip club regulars.

Categories
Social Justice Youth

What’s Wrong With the Juvenile Justice System?

Originally posted on The ABC Drum.

In the wake of two teenagers being shot by police in Kings Cross, The Sydney Morning Herald has been running a series of articles focusing on the  effectiveness of the juvenile justice system.

The facts presented by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics within the articles are startling.

As a result of a ten year study, the Bureau report that domestic violence cases involving 10 – 17 year-olds have increased by 167 per cent, while other violent crime, break and enter and malicious damage to property all rising 21, 13 and 47 per cent respectively.

Approximately 5000 young people per year have their first contact with the juvenile justice system, but of particular concern is the rate of recidivism of those juveniles brought before the courts. Of the 4938 juveniles who came before NSW courts in 1999, over 2600 of them reoffended, on average four times before 2010. For Indigenous kids the rate of recidivism was 84 percent.

What is going wrong with our juvenile justice system? Why are kids released only to return a few months or years down the track?

The fact is: If we want to stop these kids re-offending, we have to stop them offending in the first place.

We must address poverty in earnest. We need to be creative in how we run our schools. We need to provide genuine learning and employment opportunities. Provide better funding for youth workers, outreach programs and schools. We need to support families.

The government must realize that society as a whole is responsible for our youth, and funding in this area should not be seen as a cost but an investment.

You can read my full article on The ABC Drum…

Categories
Education Social Justice Wellbeing Youth

Is Education The Way Out of Poverty?

In light of the Gonski Review of school funding in Australia, I revisited and updated a piece I wrote whilst sitting in a New Orleans Hotel room. I’d initially written this piece as a response to what I’d witnesses in the virtually non-existent or corrupt education system in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. What is clear from my time in New Orleans, is that it will take a whole lot more than just money to address the gap between our richest and poorest kids.

For those born into poverty, every day is a natural disaster. Yet in this case, society often appears to turn a blind eye. The very same people who shed tears watching the aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami are the ones who cross the road to avoid the homeless. Those who ran around the office with a bucket to help the Haitian people in the wake of the earthquake that claimed 220,000 lives, are the same ones who avoid eye contact with those, who really should just go get a job.

You can read the full piece on The Huffington Post

Categories
Media Wellbeing Youth

The Kids Are Alright – In the National Times

Fed up with the constant media attacks on our youth, I sat down at the laptop and wrote this. And the National Times decided to publish it…

Another day, another media attack on the youth of Australia. This time it’s the turn of Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, to have a report, “All parents should see.” It claims to show, “What your kids are getting up to.”

A quick look at the headlines in the last six months would lead you to believe that most of our youth are alcohol fuelled members of fight clubs, who in between cyber-bullying and sexting, rate their sexual partners’ prowess via root rating sites. How teens find the time to do all of this in between planking, dealing drugs and causing chaos on our roads in their P-plated cars is anyone’s guess.  Read my full article at the National Times

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