Dear Politicians: We’d love it if you started a sensible conversation about solutions

It’s a frustrating time for people living in Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, and Tarneit. Over the last ten years, the rate of home invasions in our area has increased, faster than the increase in Victoria as a whole. We’ve been in the news, with criminal public behaviour making national headlines. We voted for you in the hopes that you would provide leadership, but that hope is looking pretty naive right now.

The Liberal Party want us to believe that we are terrified to leave our homes to eat out; those of us who are terrified are scared of home invasions, not restaurant invasions. The Labor Party want us to believe that there isn’t a problem, and that if there is a problem then it’s under control, and if it isn’t under control, then it’ll be fixed really soon. Neither has any real credibility.

The police just look miserable, like customer service operators working for a big company that won’t admit to its mistakes. They didn’t choose the thing the politicians chose, but they’re not allowed to disagree. They’ve spent a lot of time looking weak, but we need them to be strong, and to look strong. When kids are saying “You can’t do anything” to the police, we have a horrible feeling that they’re right, and that’s one of our deepest concerns.

For a while, each of us reached for our favorite solution, and we all said really predictable things that made it easy to tell who we vote for. But we’ve been doing something else: the hard work of actually listening to each other, and trying to understand where people are coming from.

We’re coming to terms with the complexity of the issues, with the lack of easy answers, with the lack of people who are going to fix these problems for us. And we’ve started having conversations that look like this:

It depends on which problem you’re trying to solve. Are you trying to build public confidence, or are you trying to rehabilitate repeat offenders, or are you trying to stop people becoming first-time offenders? We’ve got a few things on the go here.

In terms of the basketball tournament I’d be inclined to stop running it in the short term until some sort of control of it can be regained. Is the argument in favour of it that kids playing sport are less likely to come off the rails? Perhaps then I’d be looking at retaining the tournament but not opening it to spectators (especially since the claims have been that it’s the spectators causing the problems).

The idea that tournament is for the people who worked hard to get there (and not for people who are looking for an excuse to get out of town and get smashed) appeals to me a lot.

I’m not sure how practical it would be ultimately (you’d probably still have to let in family at least, and potentially friends). Maybe you’d let anyone in who was a member of a state basketball association?

Good point. How’s this: every ticket is linked to player who invited you to come. Any justified complaint about you results in that player being banned.

Yep, that could work. Although, in thinking further about it I have a couple of concerns that I’m sure you will also have considered;
- The idea that behavior of one person negatively affects another is sounding more and more to me like the people saying “If the kid messes up send the whole family home”. Completely different extremes I’d agree, but you can see why it sounds familiar. Do you think it would be enough?
- If you did ban a player would that not be counter-productive given you’re taking them out of sport, if the sport is deemed to have a positive effect?

We haven’t got an awesome proposal yet, and we might not come up with one. But we’ve progressed beyond name-calling and party allegiances. We’re working on solutions. We’re the ones with genuine reasons to be scared, who are not getting paid to work on this stuff, and who hired you (at the ballot box and through our taxes) to do this stuff. Feel free to join in, and to say and do something useful.

We don’t need your sympathy, we don’t need to be reassured, we don’t need to be told that we’re racists, and we don’t need people linking the issues to people’s race all the time. We do need an actual solution. Are you with us?

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Nick Argall is an organization engineer, structuring activities to help businesses achieve their goals.

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