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Seeking answers to growing youth crime


The situation of young people in Port Moresby’s Morata informal settlement and what the government could do to keep them from social evils by Julian Melpa BA and Dr Francis Odhuno, Issues Paper No 40, National Research Institute of Papua New Guinea, April 2022. Link here to access the complete paper

NOOSA – The PNG National Research Institute has been investigating the situation of unemployed youth in Port Moresby and identifying what reforms are required to “keep them from social evils” as the research report puts it.

The research by Dr Francis Odhuno and intern Julian Melpa provides insights into the challenges faced by young men and women at Port Moresby’s sprawling Morata settlement and looks for answers there which also might apply to the rest of PNG.

Morata settlement is inhabited by a multi-ethnic mix of low and middle income people where opportunities for earning an income are scarce and unemployment high.

The lack of jobs and other sources of income have led some young people into crime to sustain themselves and their families.

The researchers say that, while Morata is slowly improving socially, the two constants of youth unemployment and youth involvement in criminal activities remain constant.

In fact, youth unemployment is increasing across all rural and urban areas of PNG.

The resultant poverty and law-and-order issues, the researchers say, are “really a threat to the growth of the nation and peace and harmony in the societies.”

This, they add, should “prompt a rethink of strategies to meaningfully engage youth in the country’s development process.

“The government should create a platform for every youth to at least take part, not only to earn a living but also to contribute towards the development of the nation.

“In particular, the government should expand opportunities for quality education and training, rehabilitation centres and endeavor to expand agriculture and downstream processing of raw materials.”

Other specific initiatives would involve engaging youth in community service projects, provide training opportunities on how to efficiently manage a business and establish youth loan schemes to enable young people to start their own businesses

Expanding agricultural and manufacturing opportunities should be able absorb many people graduating from schools, colleges and vocational institutions, providing they have the right skills.

The research paper concludes by stating that “the only way to protect the community is to minimise or even eradicate criminal activities.

“This can be done by equipping unemployed youth with useful skills, knowledge and job opportunities to at least generate income for themselves in order to survive.

“The initiatives being promoted here can be applied elsewhere in PNG to address the problem of youth unemployment,” the authors say.

Then “the criminal activities perpetrated by young people in Morata settlement should be expected to decrease”.

But not mentioned is the alternative – what happens if training opportunities, business loans, community service projects and greater growth across the economy do not occur.

The gloomy answer to a question not asked can only that communities will become even more impoverished and that law and order problems will become even more shocking.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Well said Philip.

Addressing the problems surrounding young people in PNG, both male and female, would go a long way to solving some of PNG's most pressing issues.

Philip Kai Morre

The National Research Institute is mandated to do research on policy matters and make recommendation to the government to formulate bills to assist effective public policy, such as how best to ensure our youths are involved in meaningful activities to avoid crimes.

Our youths are at the crossroads facing a lot of challenges and we need to assist them to become good citizens.

Youths are our future strength and, if we don’t address their problems now, the future of this country will go down the drain.

Crime is a symptom of a society that is sick. Youth problems are associated with alcohol and drug abuse, violence and poverty, but we are not helping with solutions.

There is identity crisis and a lot of youths don’t really know who they are. Am I a human being with dignity or something else? What is the real meaning of life, my being, my spirituality and personality. Am I intelligent or dull comparing to animals.

There is lack of self-confidence where youths don’t have trust in themselves. They feel that they are worthless, nobody, hopeless. They don’t know where they going and roaming around aimlessly.

The negative impact on the electronic media and entertainment is another factor that promotes criminal activities and antisocial behaviors

Even the education system makes them feel neglected and many youths don’t see any meaning in it. Negative thought produces negative results and positive thought produces positive results.

Our traditional values, norms, regulations and culture are disappearing. Families, kinships and clan mobilisation for work and celebrations are dying out.

Today a lot of youths don’t go to church for spiritual guidance or proper moral disposition. Secular humanism has taken over spirituality and moral values and youths don’t seemed to value themselves as human beings who have dignity.

Kindin Ongugo

We can not do better than some quote from the Holy Bible.

One of these is; "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

We have thrown away rules of life that guided humans over thousands of years to new-age ideologies that has resulted in dehumanising homo sapiens in just 50 to 100 years.

Lindsay F Bond

In Queensland, both in 'north' and now more in 'south', criminal ventures by folk categorised as "youth", is increasingly the major item reported in news 'of the day'. Next Monday, I expect to be in attendance at a funeral of a chap, who, no fault of his own, was fatally hit by a vehicle driven without license or care by 'underage youth', in the type of crime that is more deadly and to be feared.

Quite surprisingly today, I see news of alleged criminality by 'youth' that is occurring in the "north", not of Queensland but of all places, Northern Province, that earlier "Northern District" where so many of my colleagues of 1960s voluntarily went as teachers at invitation of adults and elders so that their children might gain benefit of knowledge that was evident among visitors (as is said, miners, missionaries, etc).
In and around Oro's only town, Popondetta, law makers and leaders too have a major task to engage with the trouble-makers. As an occasional visitor to Oro, I have a keener interest, having visited so many of places of education in Oro to gain an appreciation of the existing infrastructure. And actually having occasional help from folk who are students and 'youth'.

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