While many Indigenous youths have close associations with WA’s famed Police and Community Youth Centres, or PCYC’s as they are known, distinguished West Australian Sue Gordon is looking for closer ties to Indigenous organisations and has urged corporate and philanthropic support for the organisation.
Dr Gordon, the organisation’s president, says that from boxing to basketball, education and employment, to drug and crime prevention, many young Aboriginal people from across Western Australia have been closely involved with PCYCs, which this year celebrates its 75th year of operation.
WA’s first Aboriginal magistrate, Dr Gordon has been President of the PCYC Board for the past five years during a time of dramatic change for the organisation.
Following a State Government inquiry, The Browne Report, and an influx of government funding for a major refurbishment program the organisation has re-invented itself as a key player in the development of programs for young West Australians.
A significant part of that focus has been on Indigenous youth and remote communities.
Dr Gordon, who in 2002 led the inquiry into family violence and child abuse in WA Aboriginal communities known as the Gordon Inquiry, says there needs to be an ongoing effort to empower young Aboriginals.
She believes PCYC is perfectly positioned to do that and wants the organisation to work alongside Aboriginal groups.
When she was invited by WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan to take on her role at PCYC it was part of a process of handing leadership of the organisation from WA Police management to civilian management.
She says it has been a challenging period for the organisation, but one that it has successfully come through.
For PCYC to continue to flourish, Dr Gordon, who was awarded an Order of Australia in 1993 for her work with Aboriginal people, says collaboration is the key.
When it was founded in 1941 as the Police Boys Club its purpose was to give young boys whose fathers had gone away to World War II a male influence in their lives from the police officers running the clubs.
As the organisation evolved Dr Gordon says the now modernised Police and Community Youth Centres had developed much more relevance to young Aboriginals.
While most financial support for PCYC had come from government, she believes the time has come for the organisation to reach out to corporate and philanthropic sponsors to develop partnerships and collaborative programs.
“The government continues to want programs for young people to keep them out of the courts, so they have a funding responsibility in that area, but all the burden shouldn’t fall on government, so we have to be smart as a Board to attract support from other areas,” she says.
“It would be good to get corporate support for specific periods of time for to support a particular project or region.
“There might be mining companies operating in particular native title areas who might like to fund a particular PCYC.
“We also have to work ourselves in Aboriginal areas where there are Native Title decisions being made and royalties are flowing into those areas.
“We need to be wise enough to sit down with Aboriginal corporations, Aboriginal Trusts and the Aboriginal communities in those areas to see if they can fund some programs for their own kids,” she says.
PCYC is working closely with WA Police in many remote regions of Western Australia, but Dr Gordon believes there are many more opportunities to use the experience PCYC has gained over its 75 years of operation to do much more for young Aboriginal people.
PCYC has infrastructure in place all over the State where more programs for Indigenous youth could be based or be extended.
“We have to be proactive and work with Aboriginal people in some of the remote areas where there are royalties. We have to work out how they can be a part of that funding package,” she says.
“In the South-West we have the South West Land Agreement and the South West Land and Sea Council. We look forward to collaborating with the Council to identify initiatives and funding that can benefit young Aboriginals, their families and communities. .
“It might be a cultural program they might like to run for all kids and PCYC is the venue because I don’t see the point in duplicating infrastructure around the State.”
She says PCYC is looking at partnerships and sponsorships which offered benefits for both parties through such things as naming rights, co-branding and so on.
She says there are particular needs in places like Kununurra where PCYC does not have a centre and which Dr Gordon believes would benefit greatly.
“The police would like it there, but we have to get more people on side,” she says.
“We have to try something there because there are lots of issues in Kununurra.”
Many Aboriginals have had a long association with PCYC and many Indigenous youngsters are involved at different volunteer levels, Aboriginal police liaison people involved and Aboriginal people on staff.
Dr Gordon believes that PCYC is relevant to Aboriginal kids.
“There are lots of individual examples. At Gosnells in the Perth metropolitan area a few years ago a police officer who was the PCYC manager and a group of others started the Stepping Stones program where Aboriginal kids who weren’t going to school would go to the PCYC.
“The Education Department was quite happy with that arrangement, all though I don’t think they should have been, they should be trying to get the kids back to school, but the Aboriginal kids were happy there, they could get something to eat and they were getting an education and doing other activities.
“It is almost like a safe haven.”
She says in places like Roebourne there was a particularly strong association with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal volunteers helping to run the centre.
Dr Gordon says there are differing perspectives about PCYC among Aboriginal people.
“It depends where they are. I went up a couple of years ago to Broome and we had a classroom set aside where there were Aboriginal people helping Aboriginal high school students, doing their education from the PCYC centre, so to them it was a place that wasn’t in the big high school, but they were comfortable going to school, but in our centre.
“There are different things being offered in different areas so that Aboriginal young people in those different areas view it in different ways.”
She says that because PCYC is a registered training organisation its status allowed it to offer a wide range of training opportunities.
It was this, combined with its relationship with the police, improving infrastructure and a reach across the whole of WA, which provided the opportunity for a strong future for the organisation.