From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 3 December
Nothing is achieved by finger-pointing and blaming the police for the antisocial behaviour related to homelessness in Ballarat. The diverting outrage would suggest panic; a lack competence from those whom we have entrusted to solve the problem!
CONVERSELY, Ballarat is not exceptional.
It is occurring in Bendigo, London, New York, Rome, and Paris. In each of those locations politicians and community leaders are grappling with the pervasive dilemma. While solutions work in the theory, the application is proving more problematic. The world is troubled and nuanced. Mores and entitlements have transformed, seismically. Globally, we are grappling with serious, intergenerational, societal challenges.
Recently in the Victorian Parliament’s upper house, known as the Legislative Council, Member for Western Victoria Joe McCracken, invited Minister for Police and for Crime Prevention Anthony Carbines, to visit and to see “first-hand” the swirling problems of homelessness causing understandable community concern.
The invitation is to be applauded; knowledge is power; however, to what end?
Homelessness is not the remit of the police minister. However vexed, the solution remains the responsibility of politicians, government welfare agencies, and the community.
Victoria Police officers are sworn to up-hold the law. It is not their lot to unravel society’s Gordian knot of welfare challenges; nor can they arrest away decades of government neglect. Police resources and staff numbers are limited. They can assist only a neighbourhood which is prepared to help itself.
Criticising police for society’s ‘wicked problems’ is calculated poppycock: ‘passing-the-buck’; ‘covering your arse for political expediency’. Incumbent politicians will rant and quote data; banter amounts of expenditure; and defensively pontificate, interminably. However strident their party policy protestations, patently, the system is not working! There is a critical lack of public housing. Waiting times and building programs are disquieting.
Recently, a welfare sector worker encountered one family struggling with social welfare dependency stretching across four-generations, all of whom have lived devoid of a work ethic. Never, was it introduced as a viable option in their maturation developmental process. Society, in failure, has deprived them of their self-worth; self-esteem; and the joy, and myriad benefits, which percolate from a working contribution – a job!
Breaking the cycle is imperative. Indubitably, it is their only possibility. There exists no other answer. Homelessness is caused by complex systemic, structural, and individual factors: social disadvantage, financial hardship, and poor health.
In 2021-22, three in 10 who received assistance from specialist homelessness services were under 18.
More than 43,000 children under nine received support.
More than 7,300 women aged 55 plus are homeless.
Domestic violence homelessness in Australia is unacceptable. Police resources are overwhelmed. Fleeing victims are waiting more than 20 months for accommodation. Women’s refuges must be prioritised.
Currently, the age of criminal liability in Victoria is 10. However, the Victorian Government has committed to raising the age to 12 in 2024, and subsequently to 14 in 2027. The logic is questionable. Juvenile delinquency shows no signs of abating; indeed, and in the absence of the empirical evidence, it seems, anecdotally, on the increase.
Twelve is considered the top-end of childhood, fourteen is classified a young adolescent. Biologically, 12-year-old boys will develop an increasing logic; a capacity to handle more complex thinking; communication skills improve. They begin questioning, and most importantly, are able to differentiate between right/wrong; and are cognisant of committing crime.
Whatever the rationale for legal change, it is evident the fragile status quo will serve only to exacerbate the problem.
The answers are elusive, but this decision is profoundly perilous!
Constantly, police are frustrated by the system. Ramifications are obvious!
Roland can be heard with Brett MacDonald on 3BA on Mondays at 10.45am and can be contacted via [email protected].