"There is something seriously bad on our streets and its nasty presence is across the entire nation," said Chairman of Well Being Australia, Mark Tronson.
On one weekend alone in Victoria there were thirteen knife attacks, alarming police and the community. As crime rises people from all states are becoming frightened for their safety. All it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Each month at the Tweed Heads Chamber of Commerce breakfast, police give an update on local crime. The sickening undercurrent of these reports is that local gangs are spontaneously attacking innocent people for pleasure.
Angry Anderson recently expressed his opinion that in Australia, weapons are never acceptable and migrants or country folk who move into the cities bringing their hunting knives etc need to be told this.
"Our fairness to the underdog culture needs to be reinforced to all those young lads while they are still in school - that you never kick someone when they are down," he said.
Well Being Australia Chairman Mark Tronson holds some very strong opinions on street violence.
"Throughout history there have always been street 'gangs' of young people that have been either innocuous or greatly feared. Any studying of history about such cities as ancient Rome, or Paris in the years prior to the French Revolution in France, or Chicago of the 1930s will show that youths have always taken advantage of the innocent and law-abiding public living in the anonymity of the cities. aid Mark.
"Our lawmakers and law enforcers have worked hard over the past one hundred years to make our society and our city streets safer than ever before in history. We do not want to lose our current advantage. We need to continue to be vigilant to avoid a serious crime wave.
"These street gangs are mostly teenagers, often surprisingly young and seeking a sense of belonging from their peers. Without a home environment in which parental supervision is respected and honoured, they do not respect the laws of our wider society, either" said Mark.
Once upon a time it was sport, not violence that enabled youths to concentrate their energies, dominate their time and feel a sense of belonging. Unfortunately in today's society sport is not accessible to everyone.
New regulations and the formalisation of sporting clubs now require a caring parent to serve as the taxi, the encourager, the canteen supervisor, and the custodian of birth certificates that are required to sign up to any club today. Many parents now are steering away from Rugby League, the traditional game of NSW and some other states, because they perceive that it institutionalises the very violence that Mark Tronson is decrying.
"They have seen that 'biff and bump' in those games was part of the 'coming of age' experience for teenage lads; and they do not want their kids biffed and bumped – nor do they want the possible law suits that may arise if their kids are seen to be DOING the biffing and bumping," said Tronson.
If Sport no longer plays that vital 'belonging factor' and 'rough and tumble' initiation to manhood for the 'have nots', what else in our society offers this? It appears as though membership of teenage 'gangs' (no birth certificate required!) is becoming the substitute.
How can we, as a society, help to stop this street violence from escalating to levels seen in the past? Mark Tronson offers these suggestions.
â€¢ Individuals and communities should be pro-active in providing physical alternatives. For example, the SES or the Rural Fire Brigades other volunteer services such as St John's Ambulance, welcome both male and female 16 year olds. All of these provide a vast array of training opportunities in a variety of areas. Then there are the purely physical pursuits such as Outward Bound, the Scouts and Guides, and a variety of rock-climbing and bushwalking clubs that can help provide the appropriate gear and equipment. In the cities, there are also Police Boys' clubs and various boxing clubs and youth clubs with a variety of cheap activities, where venues are secure and supervision is provided.
â€¢ Choose supervised activities with mentors.
â€¢ If the youths are not sporty or highly physical there are many other activities for them to partake in from chess groups to music, drama, reading and arts. There are also non-physical volunteer activities that older teenagers can train to be involved with – everything from 'puppy-walking' baby guide-dogs to helping on the telephones on services such as 'Lifeline' to serving in one of the many charity clothing shops – they are always looking for volunteers.
â€¢ Last, but most importantly, Mark Tronson believes that church youth groups are the most under-utilised form of youth engagement. When he was young youth groups did ten pin bowling, rock climbing, music entertainment, learning an instrument, playing in bands, youth group exchanges to another church in another city, car rallies, tourist boat trips, fishing, sleep overs … the list is endless and the cost is minimal. Perhaps church communities could take up some of these challenges once more; bored teenagers jump at these opportunities, especially if they have other young people they know involved, and there is someone they trust (such as congregation members) to pick them up, drop them off and show an interest in them and their development.
By interesting these youngsters before they become totally bored and involved in the so-called 'excitement' of the illegal and dangerous activities promoted by the street gangs, we can help to keep our young teenagers safe and at the same time protect the rest of the community.