Xboxes, meals and a safe en­vi­ron­ment all help­ing to con­nect cops and kids

Dubbo Photo News - - News Extra - By JOHN RYAN

KIDS with the least op­por­tu­ni­ties in life are be­ing given a life­line by a small team of lo­cal police – and now those cops are ask­ing for the com­mu­nity to help out to not only im­prove lives, but to make Dubbo a far more co­he­sive com­mu­nity.

Five weeks ago, three police and two li­ai­son of­fi­cers were asked by Orana Mid-western com­man­der Peter Mckenna to come up with strate­gies that would work on the ground – and one of those re­sulted in the PCYC be­ing thrown open on Fri­day nights from 6 to 11.30pm as a safe place to so­cialise.

It's per­form­ing off the charts, ac­cord­ing to se­nior con­sta­ble Ian Burns who works in the Abo­rig­i­nal Youth Team.

"It's been great. The first night we opened we didn't know what to ex­pect and we thought we'd be on a win­ner if we got 20 kids here – and we got 45. On the Fri­day just gone we had 87 kids, so it's a tremen­dous night," Snr Const Burns told Dubbo Photo News.

"We've got mul­ti­ple Xboxes and Playsta­tions so the kids can play games, we've got a pro­jec­tor onto a wall where they can play their games, that's quite im­pres­sive. There's ta­ble ten­nis and of course the bas­ket­ball court where the kids gen­er­ally play touch foot­ball for hours and hours and hours, so there's heaps to do and we're look­ing at some other stuff as well.

"We cer­tainly don't want to cat­e­gorise or put these kids into any kind of slots; they do come from mixed back­grounds and some do come from tough lives, but ul­ti­mately it's just kids want­ing some­thing to do, and if you pro­vide it, they'll come.

“A lot of kids don't get in­volved in the com­puter games or the touch foot­ball, they just hang around, chat and lis­ten to mu­sic. It's just pro­vid­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment where the kids know they can come and be safe and looked af­ter," he said.

Se­nior con­sta­ble Craig Skene is on his sec­ond tour as a spe­cial­ist youth of­fi­cer at PCYC and be­lieves the old-school meth­ods of en­gage­ment says it's crit­i­cal that lo­cal kids are en­gaged on Fri­day nights.

"We are talk­ing to the other agen­cies about what they can do to get on board and give us some as­sis­tance," Snr Const Burns said.

"We've had some vol­un­teers come in which has been re­ally, re­ally good. We re­ally need a hand, par­tic­u­larly with cook­ing for the kids – we want to make sure they go home with a full belly – and the PCYC pro­vides the food so we just need three or four peo­ple to as­sist us in pre­par­ing that food and dish­ing it up.

“If there are peo­ple out there, please get in con­tact with us and let us know when you can come down – it's a great thing for peo­ple to help out the youth of Dubbo," he said.

And that's not all the good news happening at Dubbo's PCYC, Craig Skene says other tar­geted pro­grams are show­ing great re­sults as well.

"We're run­ning a Fit for Life break­fast pro­gram Tuesdays and Thurs­days. We get nor­mally any­where from 20 to 30 kids – we pick them up from home, bring them down here, run a sporting ac­tiv­ity like box­ing or touch footy, cook them a nice healthy brekky and then drop them to school," Snr Const Skene said.

They also run a Fit for Work pro­gram on Tuesdays, Wed­nes­days and Thurs­days which cur­rently sees a group of about 14 15-yearolds who are dis­en­gaged from school. The pro­gram helps make them “work-ready”, and Snr Const Skene says they are work­ing at en­gag­ing more young peo­ple in the pro­gram. “They're learn­ing skills, they're build­ing up their re­sumes, they're get­ting pre­pared for life," he ex­plained, adding that it's only com­mu­nity sup­port that en­ables the Fit for Life pro­gram to keep run­ning.

"With our Fit for Life pro­gram we do have some com­mu­nity sup­port – Wool­worths Riverdale gives us food, Village Hot Bake gives us the bread, and the Lit­tle Big Dairy Com­pany gives us the milk. With­out those three spon­sors the pro­gram wouldn't run," he said. „

Se­nior Con­sta­ble Craig Skene says old-school meth­ods of en­gag­ing Dubbo kids are pay­ing off. A new Fri­day night ses­sion at the PCYC is al­ready at­tract­ing four times as many kids as orig­i­nally ex­pected. PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS

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