Northern Territory education strongly focuses on the academic development of children. In recent years, that priority has been magnified by the annual NAPLAN testing and assessment program. However, holistic development which includes social, emotion and moral development receives less attention than used to be the case.

The School Based Constables program, developed in the NT during the 1980’s emphasised this aspect of education. Attached to high schools, each School Based Constable (SBC) had a number of feeder primary schools he or she attended. Constables would visit their schools to conduct Drug and Alcohol Education (DARE) classes with children. They extended their role to include ‘stranger danger’ awareness and issues such as bullying.

Children used to appreciate ‘their’ constable in a way that helped them build positive feelings toward police. Social awareness and responsibility was an element of the program that helped students appreciate their social and moral obligations. In turn, constables learned a lot about community matters of which they needed to be aware. Appreciation and respect for law and order grew from this program.

Sadly, this program has been redefined and significantly dismantled. School Based Police are now ‘Youth Engagement Officers’. They are no longer based in schools but visit (a lot less frequently than in the past) from suburban and town police stations. DARE programs have lapsed along with the contribution SBC’s made to the sharing of children’s learning and development of their attitudes.

A point of alarm is that the training of police to fill this particular role has been largely discontinued. It may not be long before this program, one of Territory significance will be extinct.

A police sponsored program, the Blue Light Disco, has been discontinued in urban areas and curtailed for remote community schools. This program has filled an important place in the lives of young people and has given them an enjoyable, supervised outing. Nothing has been put into place to fill the vacuum left by Blue Light cancellation. This leaves young people with time on their hands.

The NT School Based Constable program was studied and adopted by police jurisdictions interstate and overseas. It has been instrumental in developing healthy attitudes in young people toward law and order issues. Respect for law and order and acceptance of social responsibility is at a low point within our Territory culture. Now might be an opportune time to revisit and reinstate what was a most successful school and extra-curricular program.  As it stands, School Based Constables are fast becoming an extinct species.

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