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Girls get back to country

17 August 2020, Voices from the Field

Camping and camaraderie getting girls off the streets 

In the Kimberley, far north Western Australia, young children on the streets is a common sight. There’s little to do, and it’s easy for children to spiral into crime, and drug and alcohol abuse. 

Save the Children’s focus on getting kids off the streets spans activities from Pizza and Playstation nights to Friday night dinners – sometimes the only meal the children might have that day. But one of the most popular activities with the children is the camping trips, says Save the Children’s Natasha Cross. 

Save the Children’s Natasha Cross, Senior Constable Jasmine Carlin and the girls on the first overnight camp.
Photo: Rebecca Nadge / ABC Kimberley 


Coming together to learn and share

Together with Kununurra police and Target 120, Save the Children held the first overnight camp last month at Buttons Crossing. The camp is designed to help get the girls away from outside influences, build peer relationships, resilience and responsibility. 

“The camp focused on young ladies within the community who had some sort of street presence” says Natasha. “It was a chance to get them together to chat about why they were on the street. We also chatted about relationships, domestic violence (both within relationships and within family members), careers and personal issues like birth control and how to prevent STIs.”

Natasha says the girls told her it was one of the best nights they have ever had. 

It was good for them just to get out of town and get away from the family and other influences. The girls had to get their swags ready and roll them back up the next morning. They had to do their own dishes, help with the cooking, the unpacking and the packing up. We had an Indigenous mental health worker come out as well. She sat down with us around the fire and had a chat to the girls about what can happen if you slip into substance abuse.

Natasha Cross

Girls from 12-14 took part in the first overnight camp run by Save the Children in the Kimberley.
Photo: Rebecca Nadge / ABC Kimberley 


Getting to know the girls

As well as the girls coming together and forming strong relationships, Natasha says it provides the adults a chance to get to know the girls better too. “I do have relationships with these girls, but taking them on camp made me aware of a lot of other things that I didn't know about that goes on with them, and being more sensitive to their needs, and what is going on with them and why they're on the street.”

But she sees positive futures for all of them, including some whom have just re-engaged in education. “A couple of girls are heading away to boarding school now. One's already gone and another one's going next week. Another couple we've regained back at school.”

The girls took part in fishing, as well as setting up their own swags, cooking and cleaning.
Photo: Rebecca Nadge / ABC Kimberley 


Youth activities for all

To keep kids off the streets Save the Children run a range of programs every week for youth to attend. “Every Wednesday we have alternate boys and girls dinners,” explains Natasha. “We put some music on and chat to them. With the girls (aged 12-17) some of them are in serious relationships. We talk to them about contraception and STIs, and personal issues. We do the same with the boys, we talk a lot about domestic violence, about jealousy and that sort of stuff.”

“On Thursday we have pizza and PlayStation night. The kids hang out in the hub and play. On Friday and Saturday nights we have the hub open and we've got a laptop that's hooked up to the internet for music, we've got ping pong and badminton, and the basketball courts are open.  

And every time that we're open, we're providing a meal for them. On a Friday and Saturday night, it's sit-down meal. It's either spaghetti bolognaise or a curry, sometimes a stew. It’s always something substantial that's going to fill them up until at least the next day, because sometimes the meal that they have here is the only one that they have.

Natasha Cross

For many of the children these meals and activities are what’s keeping them off the streets. Off a path that’s headed into crime, drugs and alcohol and onto a path of positive relationships and education. With the right support behind them, these children have every chance of success at school and beyond. 

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