HELPING HAND: President of the Chinchilla Men's Shed Richard Nixon. Pic: Peta McEachern
HELPING HAND: President of the Chinchilla Men's Shed Richard Nixon. Pic: Peta McEachern

Chinchilla organisation hopes to change course for at-risk teens

A CHINCHILLA organisation is hoping to instill a sense of self-worth in the community’s most at-risk youth offenders by teaching them life skills and to go against the grain.

The Men’s Shed has formed a partnership with Chinchilla police to teach at-risk teens new skills, and show them an alternative to a life of crime in the hopes a holistic approach will tackle the southwest town’s alaming youth crime problem.

The latest incident of youth crime occured on Monday when an elderly Chinchilla resident was targeted by a teen offender from Toowoomba that was being pursued by police, the offender broke into the resident’s unlocked home on Burbank St at 11pm and stole a car.

President of the Chinchilla Men’s Shed Richard Nixon believes his organisation would provide an alternative path for teenagers who are committing crimes, if they’re willing to try.

“Everyone deserves a chance,” Mr Nixon said.

“Some might be set in their ways and hard to change… but honestly, I think they should be given a chance anyway.”

In the first 10 months of 2020, the town of Chinchilla and its residents have been living through a prolonged crimespree, with 48 cars stolen since January, exactly double the amount for the same time period in 2019.

With 86 Chinchilla homes being broken into in 2020 so far and youth offenders behind a significant chunk of the crimes, the community has been quick to react - with two petitions launched demanding action from the Queensland government which has drawn the attention of police minister Mark Ryan and resulted in new localised police programs to tackle the complex issue.

Mr Nixon and the Men Sheds program is one that will hopefully make a difference by teaching basic carpentry skills, how to fix things and be creative with woodwork.

The 72-year-old retiree said becoming more self-sufficient and confident in your own abilities gives a person hope for the future.

“Ordinarily they might not get the opportunity with their parents to learn these skills, when I was younger if you had a question like that you would go to your father and he would show you. I don’t think a lot of these children had that opportunity,” Mr Nixon said.

“They might be missing some of those things at home and if they can see what can be done, how to help others, and learn hands on skills - it should be good.”

Born in 1948, in Chatswood Sydney, Mr Nixon said his parents instilled in him from a young age that mistakes happen, and not to be so quick to judge.

“I was brought up to take people as they are, not who you think them to be, and let them make mistakes,” Mr Nixon said.

“You don’t judge people straight-up.”

Working in Alice Springs as an auxiliary policeman for 11 years, Mr Nixon said he can understand the community’s outrage over the spike in crime in the small country town but said empathy and understanding will be the way to fix the roots of the cause.

“I know some people who have been touched by the juvenile’s around Chinchilla, most of them have lived here all their lives, and they were able to walk out of their house and never worry about locking up,” he said.

“But I guess it’s just a sign of the times.

“You have to look at the other side too, how these (teenagers) have gotten to where they are, and realise they still have time to help in the community and do something.”

At its heart the Men’s Shed is built around mateship and provides members of the community the opportunity to connect with while learning new skills.

“Some members just come to socialise, at the same time (the teenagers) might be interested in listening and learning from them,” Mr Nixon said.

For anyone interested in contacting the Chinchilla Mens Shed, contact Cath Brandon on 4662 7661.


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