This Kimberley man is trying to deter young criminals, like he was, from making a huge mistake

When Tony (not his real name) was a teenager, he was one of the children running around town, committing crimes, and causing chaos.

Now the Kimberley local says he watches on helplessly as his younger family members fall into the same destructive patterns.

Warning: The following story contains concepts that may offend some readers.

Tony, whose name has been changed in this story for legal reasons, grew up in a small Kimberley community and spent his days at the station saddling and riding horses, but it was not enough for teenage Tony.

“I don’t know why but I just [couldn’t] seem to keep up with the station life,” he said.

Tony and his friends started robbing local shops and breaking into people’s houses.

A photo of four children playing on their bikes in the street at nightA photo of four children playing on their bikes in the street at night
Tony was only a teenager like these kids, roaming the streets unsupervised, when he took to crime.(ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke, file photo)

Peer pressure played a part in the teenager’s choice of actions, including threats of violence if he chose not to join in the illegal activities.

The trust fund was what Tony and his friends called their stash of stolen goods, which the children would divide between each participant.

A child holding a bunch of $50 dollar notes sitting in the back of a carA child holding a bunch of $50 dollar notes sitting in the back of a car
Tony was told he was going to be out of “the trust fund” if he did not participate in illegal activities.(TikTok, file photo)

Harsh reality 

After eventually being caught, Tony started to comprehend the harsh consequences of his actions.

“This may be fun for you, outside, but inside it’s really hard,” he said.

He was sent thousands of kilometres away from his friends, family, and community to do time with other youth offenders from around Western Australia in juvenile detention.

aerial image of the Banksia Hill Detention Centreaerial image of the Banksia Hill Detention Centre
An aerial image of the Banksia Hill Detention Centre where Tony realised what he was doing was wrong. (ABC News)

“I had to get locked up in juvenile jail for that kind of stuff,” he said.

“It made me realise … they took everything away from me.

“My friends [didn’t] help me get out of trouble. It’s the parents who have gotta do that for us. Get us out of trouble [because] others don’t do it.”

Juvenile detention was stressful for the young teenager.

“I’m going to kill the day and focus on doing my time in there. I get to do class, woodwork. It was a little fun for me to get everything off my mind,” Tony said.

But while he was there, Tony discovered more realities of bullying.

The distance from familial support eventually led to a dark turn for the teenager.

“I did try to do something to myself. I tried to hang myself inside my room in juvenile detention. I was worried too much about my home and my family because it was too far away from home,” he said.

A turn for the better

When Tony was 17, he was speaking with a psychologist and getting the help he needed to deal with his outlook on life.

“I’m thinking of hurting myself. I call the doctor [of psychology] and get to sit down and talk with them,” he said.

It was the psychology sessions that helped him, more than law enforcement.

“The police did scare me but it wasn’t enough [to make me stop],” he said.

The next generation

Today, Tony said he was seeing the same pattern of behaviour that he went through as a child in two of his nephews.

“I try and get them to stop,” he said.

“I’m going to talk them out of it but they can’t seem to listen to me.

“I get their mother to talk to them but they say ‘yeah yeah’, and after they go around and, you know.

A photo of a juvenile offender in handcuffs at Broome airport.A photo of a juvenile offender in handcuffs at Broome airport.
A juvenile offender in handcuffs at Broome airport.(ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke, file photo)

The ex-juvenile offender said his words of advice had not changed his nephews’ attitudes.

“In the end, you gotta wake up somehow and realise that it’s wrong what you’re doing. I’ve been through that road when I was in my teenage years,” he said.

“My childhood is gone.”

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