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When I was Lord Mayor of Darwin we tried to address the significant issues identified in the Youth space in Darwin. In 2012 Darwin was well behind, when compared to 19 other similar areas of Australia, in relation to youth facilities.  Since then, successive NT governments, CLP and Labor, have pursued a get tough on crime policy and we have all seen the results of that. We are getting exactly what professionals would expect from those strategies, more youth problems.  We need to change the approach and get smart on crime to break the cycle and help develop our future generations.

At the same time the facilities in Darwin have declined with the closure of the Shack and no replacements. These successive governments have not put in place policies and funding to help solve these problems in the Youth space.

We have a very significant problem in this space and governments who keep trying to blame young people and not try to build solutions. Agencies and professionals working in this area need appropriate resourcing and support to build solutions.

The background neglect is shown in the appalling statistics.

Youth unemployment (reference NT Dept Treasury and Finance) In the year to April 2024:

  • the annual average youth unemployment rate in the NT was 10.8%, being 6.4 ppt above the overall rate of 4.4%. Nationally the youth unemployment rate is 8.2 %
  • young people in the NT accounted for a lower share of the labour force than a decade ago, decreasing from 16.5% to 14.2%, reflecting both the gradual ageing of the population and a decline in the participation rate of younger workers
  • the annual average youth participation rate in the NT was 63.8%, being 8.9 ppt below the overall rate of 72.7%.

The NT government has not funded a Youth employment strategies to try to address this, yet they talk about job shortages.  

Youth homelessness (reference NT Shelter report with Childrens Commissioner)

16.5% of all Territorians under 18 years old are experiencing homelessness.

The rate of young people experiencing homelessness in the Northern Territory is 11.74 times the Australian average.


Youth crime (reference AIHW report 2022-23)

On an average day in 2022–23, in the Northern Territory:

  • 306 young people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision; most were Indigenous (282)
  • the rate of supervision (detention and community) was 79 per 10,000 (0.79%) young people aged 10–17.  To compare to the rest of Australia, Queensland next closest at 0.21% and Victoria was 0.047% at the other end of the scale.

Figures released by the Productivity Commission reveal each youth detained in the NT in 2021-22 cost taxpayers $2464 per day, with the total cost reaching more than $47m a year.