Curfew that targets teenage Aborigines is criticised as racist

A group of Aboriginal youngsters wanders past a row of cafés in Northbridge, Perth's nightlife district, glancing covetously at the plates of alfresco diners. The street lights cast shadows across their faces. It is curfew time: if they are not home soon, they will be picked up by police under a policy criticised as wrong-headed and racist.

The crackdown has been ordered by Geoff Gallop, the state premier, who says he is alarmed by the sight of unsupervised children - some as young as five - in Northbridge at night. But critics say the curfew targets black youth and raises uneasy echoes of the 1950s, when Aborigines were banned from Perth city centre after 6pm.

The number of young people descending on Northbridge - particularly at weekends - has doubled in the past two years, and most are Aborigines. Local businesses accuse them of stealing food, sniffing solvents and intimidating customers.

The curfew requires children under 13 to be home by dark and sets a 10pm deadline for under-16s. Those who flout it are detained by the police, even if they are not causing trouble. Most are passed to a charity, Mission Australia, which contacts their family or finds them a hostel bed.

Mr Gallop, a Labour politician, insists that he only wants to protect vulnerable children. "It is simply not acceptable to have youngsters on the street unsupervised," he said. "They are in an environment that is a danger to themselves. To do nothing would be a dereliction of our duty."

But opponents dismiss the curfew as a political stunt, pointing out that charities have long worked with police to remove children deemed at risk from Northbridge streets. Similar work is done by the Nyoongar Patrol, an indigenous voluntary organisation. Midge Turnbull, executive officer of the Youth Affairs Council, said: "Curfews only exacerbate young people's feelings of alienation." The Chief Justice of Western Australia, David Malcolm, said the curfew was a "Band-Aid solution". "Instead of merely targeting youth, we should be investing in our youth," he said.

Nearly 300 children have been picked up since the curfew was introduced two months ago, and 85 per cent are Aboriginal, mostly from the local Nyoongar community. Many are girls aged about 14.

Welfare workers say the curfew does not address the reasons why young people are roaming the streets at night. Ann Russell-Brown, state manager of Mission Australia, said: "For many, it's safer to be on the streets than in a house where there's excessive drinking and associated violence."

Mr Gallop has promised long-term solutions for children who have dysfunctional home lives. But so far most have simply been detained.

When five Aboriginal boys crashed a stolen car during a high-speed police chase in Perth, killing a 12-year-old occupant, Mr Gallop blamed the boys' families. He dismissed the idea that juvenile crime was rooted in historic injustices. "Finger-pointing at government agencies, finger-pointing at the past is simply not on when you see the consequences," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test