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"Tone it down": Orange deputy mayor Gerald Power shocked by Nat leader's remote camp language

March 15, 2024

Graphic design: Orange News Examiner.

Peter Holmes

"Are you serious?"

That was the response from Orange's deputy mayor Gerald Power when asked by The Orange News Examiner to respond to comments made by National Party leader David Littleproud.

On Thursday Littleproud said during an interview with Channel Nine that young offenders should be sent to remote camps in the middle of nowhere.

“We need to get back to … Outback camps, 200 to 300km from towns. You don’t need barbed wire. If they want to run away, they have to dodge the king browns (snakes) and wild dogs."

After asking if we were serious, Power then said: "Brother, are you ad libbing? You can't be serious? A politician said that?"

Power said such language dehumanised juvenile offenders.

Graphic design: Orange News Examiner.

"I disagree with the language coming from Littleproud," Power said.

"I know there is frustration out there, but at least be cautious about speaking of Australian citizens in this manner. I can't believe that language is coming from the deputy leader of the opposition. These are Australian citizens. My goodness. Tone it down."

Power said Littleproud's comment gave the impression "we don't want these people anywhere near us, let them get bitten by a snake. What rubbish. I am shocked he would say that".

Littleproud said at such a camp, “Every morning they’re up with a purpose. They’re taught a trade. They’re out there making fences, cleaning out water troughs, branding cattle and learning mechanics. They come away with a purpose in life.”

Power said he was aware of programs around Australia that sent young people to camps rather than lock them up in juvenile detention centres.

But he said unless properly funded and operated by qualified staff who were willing to work remotely, expanding the concept would be pointless and purely political.

Graphic design: Orange News Examiner.

"You need all the wraparound services," he said, pointing to the fact many young offenders were living with mental health issues, were on medication and/or drug dependent, and needed intensive support.

"It's no good putting them out somewhere remote, teaching them how to clean out troughs and afterwards just dropping them back into society, because they will fall straight in with the wrong crowd. And all those taxpayer dollars are wasted."

Power said many of those considered the worst offenders were "disengaged and disconnected" from their communities.

Senior Orange police have talked about a group of young people in the city who can't be reached, despite the best efforts of youth officers and support services.

"It often comes back to aspects of parenting," Power said. "Those services have to be there not just for the juveniles but also for their parents back here in the community. If a child has gone down the wrong track, it's not an easy fix."

He said he knew of remote camps where young offenders were given a horse or a dog to look after.

Graphic design: Orange News Examiner.

"Their role is to care for, and nurture, that animal," he said. "They need to be fed and watered before they themselves are fed and watered. It helps them to look beyond who they are."

He said they were often urban kids relocated to the bush.

"It can be very confronting," he said. "They are away from everyone, they are isolated. So how do you create that support mechanism, where all the services are in place - housing, health, training, employment?

"You need to be able to get people into a routine once they are released from incarceration, and for that you need the wraparound services. Otherwise you are just doing it for the sake of doing it."

Power said "there must be questions about the mindset of a politician who says these words and degrades another Australian citizen".




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