Anger over street-child round-up

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 12:00am

Aboriginal leaders are outraged by a controversial plan by city officials to round up indigenous children as young as four in an effort to tackle street crime.

Every weekend, up to 250 mostly Aboriginal children roam the streets of Port Augusta, in South Australia, breaking windows, spraying graffiti and drinking alcohol.

Under the plan, expected to start next month, the children will be picked up by police, taken to a 'safe house' and detained until their parents can be found and ordered to collect them. Negligent parents will have any social welfare payments blocked.

Aboriginal elders have branded the initiative illegal and say it marks a return to the era of the 'stolen generations' when Aboriginal children were removed from their families.

The social justice commissioner with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Brian Butler, said he was 'astounded' by the plan.

'It seems to me that there hasn't been any consultation and people who want a quick fix for whatever political reason may well and truly be acting illegally,' he told local radio.

The Port Augusta Mayor, Joy Baluch, said business owners and many of the town's 3,000 Aborigines backed the move.

'We've got four-year-old kids wandering around drunk and being subjected to peer pressure from older children, who sniff petrol and paint. They kick in windows and become involved in petty crime,' she said.

Local MP Graham Gunn said: 'It's time for effective and strong action to ensure that the public interest is put forward and people's properties are protected.'