MORE than 1000 community members have signed a petition calling on the State government to intervene to help mitigate escalating crime and anti-social behaviour issues in Carnarvon.
About 300 concerned locals met in Carnarvon earlier this month to canvas the government about getting help for the town to address the situation which appears to be at boiling point.
A petition, launched by The Nationals WA MP for North West Central,Vince Catania, calls on the government to immediately implement an inter-agency task force unit with representatives from all key stakeholders and the community, to "identify the issues and look at more effective ways for agencies and communities to work together in achieving a common goal and better outcomes".
"It seems no amount of communication, forums and programs has been able to mitigate the growing issues, so surely, it's time for change and to collaborate and look for solutions which may sit outside the box, with a need for a government taskforce to be set up to find innovative ways to move forward," Mr Catania said.
He said a State government assessment was needed to determine what additional resources departments such as Child Protection needed in order to create better outcomes for the local community.
"It's just not acceptable for groups of youths to be walking the streets at all hours of the day and night, damaging property, breaking, entering and stealing, intimidating the community and causing trouble and dysfunction - we need to know why are kids aren't wanting to go home?" Mr Catania said.
"Why aren't parents being held responsible?"
Mr Catania said the issues in Carnarvon had been compounded by the government relocating essential services south to Geraldton, including senior regional department managers, as well as substandard housing for government and community employees restricting the town's ability to retain and attract essential workers.
Farm Weekly was advised by the State government that there were two social housing properties under construction in Carnarvon, with six social housing refurbishment works underway and an additional two completed.
The State government is scoping a further six refurbishment works for social housing that are expected to go out to tender early next year.
This is in addition to maintenance works to 19 social housing with an additional four underway.
Responding to some of the concerns, a State government spokesperson said that WA Police had also significantly increased its presence in Carnarvon recently as part of Operation Rodia.
"Our efforts over the past five years have been focused on intensive family support services, intervention and diversional services for young people at risk and family and domestic violence outreach, counselling and crisis accommodation," the spokesperson said.
"State government agencies on the ground and local police regularly meet to progress local-based solutions, with a focus on youth truancy, housing issues and drug and alcohol-fuelled violence.
"There are millions of dollars being invested in social housing, including new builds, refurbishments and maintenance."
The Department of Communities has been working with the Shire of Carnarvon to set up a Carnarvon Community Connector Program, which would be supported by the shire and WA Police and provide community intervention services to prevent and control anti-social and destructive behaviours, maintain community peace and boost security and safety in the town.
Another local youth service in the area is the ABC Foundation, which runs a breakfast club, bush classroom and Rangers club, which operates from a Department of Communities' property that has been leased to those services.
The spokesperson said the town had complex and difficult issues to address, but the programs in place were achieving positive, locally-driven results.
However questions as to how many police officer positions were vacant in Carnarvon were left unanswered by Police Minister Paul Papalia after Mr Catania said the town had been struggling to attract and retain police officers and had up to six positions unfilled.
"We hear a lot about these extra police going to regional WA - but the problem that we have in Carnarvon is that it has substandard housing, so they can't attract anyone," Mr Catania said.
"The police are on the pointy end and can't resolve this issue because it's a whole-of-government approach that needs to take place - to work with these children and to work with the parents."
Despite the State government recently investing $1 million to upgrade the Carnarvon Police Community Youth Centre (PCYC) to help provide a positive environment for local young people, Mr Catania said the centre wasn't functioning properly due to its staff allegedly being assaulted by the children they were trying to help.
He said it was vital that the town be provided with the appropriate networks and programs for children under 15 years of age, who were committing crimes and continuing to reoffend.
"Problems in the Kimberley get highlighted all of the time so they get all of the programs and the Pilbara has all of the resource companies, but Carnarvon doesn't have any of that and all of the things that are actually needed in Carnarvon are run 500 kilometres or 1000km away from the town."
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported from 2016-2020 the Gascoyne statistical area was in the highest quintile of the 34 statistical areas in Western Australia, when ranked by the crude annual rate of suicide.
Between 2016- 2020 there were nine deaths by suicide with the estimated 2019 residential population of the Gascoyne 9,308 people.
"This means the crude annual rate of suicide deaths in the Gascoyne was 19.4 per 100,000 persons over 2015-19," the AIHW spokesperson said.
The Premier's office did not respond to the question as to whether an inter-agency task force would be implemented for the town.
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