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Praise for positive youth program

REDFERN: The number of robberies across the Redfern area has fallen dramatically thanks to a mentor program targeting juveniles at risk of criminal activity, according to Redfern Local Area Commander Luke Freudenstein. Clean Slate Without Prejudice promotes “routine and discipline” through boxing and fitness training, as a way to keep vulnerable youth out of trouble.

A successful program with young people at the NCIE (Photo: Andrew Collis)
A successful program with young people at the NCIE (Photo: Andrew Collis)

A keen boxer, Superintendent Freudenstein can be found at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) gym three mornings a week, putting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth through their paces. He and his good friend, the Tribal Warrior’s Shane Phillips, have been involved from day one and they continue to work together to identify youth in danger of sliding into crime.

“We say to them when we’re training hard, ‘If this is the hardest thing you’ll do all day then it’s going to be a good day,’” Supt Freudenstein said. After training, participants are driven by program mentors to school or work for jobs often supplied by some of Australia’s biggest companies. “Qantas and Linfox have been great and we’ve also got people jobs in labouring and other industries. It shows what can be achieved when all of Redfern works together.”

First trialled in 2009, Supt Freudenstein said the program had had an “incredible impact” on the community, with not one Aboriginal juvenile charged for committing a robbery in Redfern so far this year. “One year we had 100 robberies in one month … Since we started the program, offender and recidivism rates have steadily reduced,” he said.

While Supt Freudenstein stressed that a greater number of non-Aboriginal youth were responsible for robbery offences and that Clean Slate was open to all, the impact on the Aboriginal community had been particularly positive. “Aboriginal youth who are or have been involved in the program are now setting the benchmark for the adults in the community in terms of how to conduct yourself,” Supt Freudenstein said. “This initiative is unique to Redfern and has created a safe community with a lot of hope and sense of worth for our youth.”