Logan elders plead for funding to counsel angry youths
Community elders say counselling services are key to easing the social issues contributing to simmering racial tensions in Logan, south of Brisbane, where brawls between Aborigines and Pacific Islanders have led to the riot squad being called in.
But counselling services are currently limited and expensive in the south-east Queensland satellite city, where nearly 3 per cent of residents are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, almost double the level in Brisbane.
The kind of remarks that are being made to our young people are things like, 'This is our country'
Janet Layton, of the Logan District Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Aboriginal Corporation for Elders, said youths needed counselling from people within their own community.
However, Medicare rebates are available for those treated by registered psychologists only, of which there are just nine of Aboriginal heritage working in Logan.
The elders are pleading for government funding to recruit more registered psychologists of Aboriginal heritage in the area.
"We're working on a submission to get funding for ... the counselling work that needs to be done," Ms Layton told a community meeting at Logan City Council library on Monday.
"There are a group of nine of us at the moment who have the capability to do that kind of work, but it would be good to see other sectors of the community being able to access [counselling] as well.
"Counselling from your own people is very different to counselling from people who are not part of your culture."
"That's very real," said Suzanne Utai, on behalf of the Pacific Island community at the meeting.
"We find [the young people are] more open to counsellors who share their culture," she said.
She stressed youths on parole or probation needed better access to affordable counselling services.
Aboriginal elder Wayne Saunders, whose nephew Richard Saunders was bashed to death in a Logan park in 2008, said cultural education was also vital to ease tensions on the streets and in schools.
He said young Pacific Islanders knew little of Aboriginal history and its place in Australian society.
"They've got to learn who we are and where we came from," he said.
Ms Layton said: "The kind of remarks that are being made to our young people are things like, 'This is our country.' That's really inappropriate. That's the sort of thing that provokes arguments."
Premier Campbell Newman and Logan Mayor Pam Parker met elders on Monday morning ahead of a two-day forum in February.
Mr Newman promised to address racial bullying in Logan schools after hearing children were afraid to return to school next week.
"I'm surprised this has been allowed to build up over such a long time," he said.
"I will alert the minister and ask him for a response ... that can be implemented so when kids are coming back to schools there will be something done about it."
Cr Parker wants to prioritise education, retraining, housing and migrant settlement programs to create a two-year plan for the city at next month's forum.