In the past six months I have seen everywhere from Carnarvon up to Broome, across to Tennant Creek and down to Bourke claim their town is ground zero for youth crime in Australia.

This issue has in the past year become so pressing it is now a national crisis and any party that wants to win the upcoming federal election must come up with plans to pitch to voters to fix it.

State and local governments have important roles to play too, but with a federal election looming it is time for the Lodge aspirants to tell us what they will do to return peace to outback Australia.

We have already seen some green shoots from the Liberal party; just last month Durack MHR Melissa Price and Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt came together with Indigenous and state leaders in the Kimberley.

They formed the so-called Kimberley Community Pact which will spell out what everyone with skin in the game must do to get on top of the issue.

Under the pact the effectiveness of government funding will be probed, investigate consequences for parents whose children don’t attend school, and investigate a boarding school in the region.

It is a start at this stage which needs plenty of ironing out, and it needs to be taken nationwide because residents of WA’s north are not the only ones wondering every night if they will be the next target.

On-country and community led diversion programs need to be funded for long-term, sustainable outcomes, not short-term sugar hits.

“If they can’t control their content, they should not be allowed to operate, it is as simple as that”

Grants and one or two-year funding deals are great but they give these operations no certainty, which makes it difficult to enact the kind of generational change needed.

Parents of dysfunctional kids need to be the prime targets for rehabilitation and punishment.

Without a strong focus on helping parents gain control of their own lives we are at real risk losing a whole generation of children to the streets.

And let’s be clear; help must be the primary objective, with punishment reserved only for those who refuse to acknowledge they are ruining their children’s lives.

Serious penalties need to be introduced to social media platforms which are aiding the spread of vigilantism among WA’s youth.

If they can’t control their content, they should not be allowed to operate, it is as simple as that.

If the National Indigenous Times or any other media outlet in Australia was aiding crime we would face huge fines, jail time and being shut down.

Facebook, TikTok and co should be no different simply because they place the word social in front of media.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, there needs to be strong oversight over where and how any money is spent.

I know from my time in the Pilbara how many millions of dollars are shoveled into programs designed to improve communities and tackle issues such as dysfunctional youth, yet nothing changes.

The money too often ends up either paying bloated board and executive teams or being pissed to the wind on outside programs shoehorned into communities without any thought as to whether or not they are the right fit.

This goes right back to the heart of the argument we hear time and time again from community leaders: listen to us, engage the local knowledge, and back us to get the job done.

An outback problem needs an outback solution.

  • Tom Zaunmayr is the National Indigenous Times editor