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4 March, 2021

PCYC seeks help.

Could a simple idea that was rolled out at the PCYC in Moree NSW be the solution to youth crime in Mareeba?

By Phil Brandel

Mary-Anne West and Zach Kulka from the PCYC at The Granite Esplanade are asking for more funding to stay open later.

PCYC seeks help.

Could a simple idea that was rolled out at the PCYC in Moree NSW be the solution to youth crime in Mareeba?

In 2018 the PCYC in Moree decided that something had to be done about the rising youth crime problem in the area.

Moree PCYC manager Tayla Macey said that children roaming the streets had been an issue for some time.

“There was a big cry for a drop-in centre to open, but there was never any funding or anything to run it,” she said.

Local volunteers, police and staff volunteered their time to stay open late on Saturday nights, to get youth off the street and to hopefully get them engaged with residents and to build relationships with the local police.

“Once the police came on board, we knew it needed to happen, so we made it happen,” she said.

Tayla said the centre is open until 1am on Saturday nights and then police drop the children at home.

“For some of the kids being on the street is safer than being at home,” she said.

“We stay open late, we play sports, give the kids activities to do and give them a feed.”

Tayla said one of the positives was that kids got to play games against the local police officers and from that they slowly built relationships.

“We get between 80 -100 children turning up on a Saturday night,” she said.

“They can play basketball, touch football, cricket and we also have a chillout area for kids to colour in or play.”

Tayla said the oldest kids were about 16 -17 but they also had children as young as 3 - 4 years old attending.

“It fills in their time, it’s safer to be here than at home, Tayla said.  “Most kids don’t want to be causing trouble, so if you give them something to do or somewhere to go, they will go there.”

Since starting the program there has been a decrease in youth crime on all nights.

“They knew that if they got into trouble there were consequences for them to attend the program,” Tayla said.

“They have also built relationships with residents and police.

“Police have gotten right behind it; we also have community members coming along and the police drop in during the night.”

Tayla said that everyone noticed a difference to how the youth reacted to the police afterwards.

“They have a good experience on a Saturday night and when they run into the police on the street, they have a better relationship,” she said.

“When they played a game of basketball against the police officers, it breaks down a lot of barriers.”

Tayla said that it was all done by the local police and residents. “We have received minimal funding, everything is donated, including the volunteers time,” she said.

“We didn’t have any funding to start with, the town needed it, so we just did it.

“Most of it has been from donations of food, games and sporting equipment.

“We have only been granted about $3000 since we started.”

Mareeba PCYC Club manager Mary-Anne West said she would love to roll out a late-night drop-in centre, but she desperately needed more funding and resources.

“We need funding to pay wages and to pay for food,” she said.

“We would also like to get some elders to come in and hold some art and craft activities and engagement.”

Mary-Anne said that they regularly held BBQ’s and basketball events at Arnold park and The Granite Esplanade which needs lighting.

“If there was lighting at The Granite Esplanade we could stay longer and engage the kids more, at the moment we need to leave once it gets dark,” she said.

“We would love more funding to stay open late on a Saturday night.

“We also need donations of food and consumables and if any volunteers want to help, please contact me.”

When approached by The Express Mayor Angela Toppin said. “Council is very supportive of these initiatives and will be advocating on behalf of the PCYC to get additional funding to offer these kinds of services,” Cr Toppin said.

"Council is also looking at the possibilities of getting some lighting along the Granite Creek Esplanade and will also be improving lighting at Arnold Park so that the PCYC can increase services particularly for the youth in a safe environment.”





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