Concern at the behaviour of youngsters in the community is rife. Recently a Pambula mother contacted the News Weekly worried about children in the community after finding out that young adults were drinking and smoking marijuana at the Pambula Beach skate park.
Police have been informed of this behaviour but the mother said she is hoping the community could band together to tackle the problem.
This comes as two youngsters are being dealt with under the Young Offenders Act in relation to recent vandalism in Littleton Gardens in Bega. That someone may be brought to account for an act that hurts the entire community each time it occurs is a small comfort.
But it is sad that such behaviour is taking place in our community. Sad that it took publicly released CCTV images to prompt the possible offenders to turn themselves in. Sad that police have to worry about antisocial youth on top of their daily battle against drugs, violence and dangerous driving.
But what can we do? What can we learn from this episode?
When I posted a link on Facebook to the story of a teen handing himself in to police, pondering what an appropriate penalty could be, I was inspired by the response.
“Community service” and “planting replacement trees” were common calls – and not without merit – but several readers went further.
Bega solicitor Tony Cullinan wrote “We need to start by letting them know how much we as a community value them, how disappointed we are and that we hope they can be a better person moving forward”.
And while not abrogating the young offender’s responsibility, many gave credit to his coming forward to claim it.
More thought-provoking and heart-warming was talk of supporting and mentoring our youth so they don’t feel like such antisocial acts and behaviour is warranted.
They need to know what they did was wrong and not acceptable, but that does not mean they are, by association, not accepted.
Nathan Marshall pondered a “mentor program to help them engage in the community”.
“Ask them what projects they'd like to see to improve their town, then they could be a part of making it happen,” he said. “Throughout the program they'll learn without 'punishment'.”
Food for thought. Ben Smyth
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