Western Australia’s first Aboriginal Upper House MP has revealed for the first time her life she was scared to live in her own Broome home due to youth dysfunction in town.
In an passionate speech to parliament last week, Labor MP Rosetta Sahanna delved into her own experience living in “the Bronx” as she implored colleagues to help struggling families lift themselves out of dysfunction.
“In the last six months I had to get my son to come and stay with me, because that is how scared I was,” she said.
“In the 36 years of my life I have been living in that house, that is the first time I have been frightened of the youth of Broome.”
“I was born and bred in that town but it is scary s***” – Rosetta Sahanna
Ms Sahanna, a Ngarinyin-Bardi Jawi woman, was the first Aboriginal person elected to serve in WA’s Upper House since it was established nearly 200 years ago.
Prior to politics she worked a long career in Aboriginal health and youth services, including senior roles at Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation, the Kimberley Land Council and as a counsellor at St Mary’s College.
Ms Sahanna said her fears stemmed from her neighbour’s house, which was lived in by a young girl and was regularly “full” of eight to 14-year-old children.
“She is a young girl I have known for her whole life – I sat down with my family and said that I did not want to get this girl in trouble,” she said.
“I did not want her to lose the house either, because that means her family will be out in the street.
“I then spoke to Homeswest about it because once a month I go into my front yard and carport and pick up used needles.”
Providing mentors, honing in on supporting struggling families, and addressing “decades” of failed social policies where among the measures Ms Sahanna said were needed.
Ms Sahanna said agencies needed a stronger focus on the children who weren’t going to school and that many programs designed to help were still “too white”.
“This generation of kids is going to slip by – there are only two options for them,” she said.
“They are either the next generation of kids who are going to fill the prisons or they are the next generation of kids who are going to suicide.
“Let us give them some hope of getting out of where they are.”
Her speech came off the back of a two-day meeting in Broome in late January in which Aboriginal organisations agreed to an open dialogue to help at-risk youths.
It also came after a series of meetings between Kimberley shire presidents and State Government ministers in relation to the crime wave.
Topics discussed included on-country facilities, safe houses, the banned drinkers register, overcrowded housing and school attendance.
Kimberley Regional Group chairman David Menzel said he hoped the State Government’s focus on crime in the Kimberley would continue beyond recent announcements.