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