Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 977 ..
MS TUCKER (10.48): Basically, I believe that in this debate we need to look at what impact responses such as move-on powers have, particularly on our young people and on minority groups - but I will focus on young people first - and whether the perception that young people pose a threat to the rest of the community is warranted, or is a beat-up. Alan Rose, the president of the Australian Law Reform Commission, as reported in the Australian Weekend Magazine on youth issues around the time of recent State elections, commented:
... it was almost a game to build the myth ... almost on no basis of fact at all except the perception of young people congregating in public places and the amount of graffiti in some parts of the cities ... There are as a result increased calls by some groups in the society for regulating young people's use of public spaces.
There was a strong element of that approach in the Social Policy Committee's inquiry into the use of skateboards. A number of the submissions were, basically, more about the exclusion of young people in a quite aggressive way, really. People were not prepared to accept that these other people had a place in our public areas. Of course, it has also been an issue in enclosed spaces, such as malls, where private operators have taken it upon themselves to reduce the availability of their spaces to young people, in particular, who are not obviously consumers or customers of their shops. There has even been talk in Australia over the last few years of youth curfews, particularly in Western Australia.
This whole issue of curfews and the exclusion of certain groups from public spaces is something that is really interesting to look at historically, as well. I did some reading on it and was interested to see that the first attempts to clear the streets of young people were made in the nineteenth century when young working-class people were excluded from streets, and there was the invention of new social categories of people and new ways of talking about people that made such control processes viable, for example, juvenile delinquent. We have had many other such terms since then. These attempts to control the use of public spaces came about as the use of the streets changed.
Interestingly, in pre-industrial times, there were no shops as we know them now, and streets were used for a wide range of activities. Houses were smaller and a lot of social activity, as well as political activity, labour recruitment, and so on, occurred on the streets. From about 1830, European cities started to become more planned. That was for a number of reasons; but the one I find most interesting was the emergence of shopping as an activity for the middle-class women, who found the normal street activities of the working class, especially the young, to be scandalous. Then came the development of the police force and legislation such as vagrancy Acts and malicious trespass Acts which declared illegal a whole lot of normal working-class practices. These included street football, games of chance, and unlicensed gatherings, including unlicensed theatre.