From our discussions with several street kids at locations which they are known to frequent, some disturbing facts are emerging. Many especially younger and ethnic street kids never use the services which older streeties access. This includes the JEF/Exodus foodvan site, and all the food services. The overwhelming view among these kids is, in effect, that harassment and interference from DoCs agencies is the main barrier. Many tell of “doing rolls” when they are hungry. Several tell of friends and acquaintances who “sleep with” “captains” to have somewhere acceptable and safe to stay, and food.

 The alcopops tax? They heard about that one ages ago. We didn’t need to ask. Their three camping locations known to us were devoid of Alcopop bottles. The empty bottles clearly indicate that “Jimmy” and Gurney are the drinks of choice. Maccas packets attest to the fact that they( or someone) buys food. And these kids know how to slot seamlessly into the general populace. Dress code is all about integrating without standing out. Ethnic mix is a rainbow which is one promising barometer.

One, a pacific island/aboriginal youth of 17, put it this way ” I don’t live with my parents because they want to make me go to church and do their shit. At school, according to the teachers I’m a bully. If other kids are standing over our little cousins,teachers don’t seem to notice. But if I stand up for my little cousins,I’m a bully. I think I’m still down as being in DoCs, so I’m on the low, and can’t sign up for Youth Allowance cos of DoCs. I just want to be able to be with my friends and not have DoCs or anyone in my life. Look at (name withheld), shes supposed to be in DoCs so they reckon, but shes back next day every time they take her. We do what we do to survive. ” This is just one story. At this moment there are several others who as I write are doing the best they can for themselves, unsupported. There are a number also who do use services, are usually out of it, and get frequent free rides home to the DoCs facility they live at from DoCs service providers. They seem to be totally separate to the “hardcore” street kids who live permanently on the streets. Its hard to define a simple much less a complex answer.

I’m not even sure I know the right question. But I can say with certainty that definitive solutions will not be found in either in current government legislation, or the university/TAFE driven youth social services agenda.  Its not a new phenomenom. Read Oliver Twist? Millions of dollars have been spent(I hesitate to say squandered), Australian Family & Children legislation is now as complex as is necessary to keep a few planeloads of lawyers particularly well fed. But driving our youth further underground-pushing them further into harms way, has never been part of the solution.