The Les Twentyman Foundation, a youth charity that provides positive intervention and unconditional support for at-risk youth, has been concerned for some time with the growing number of assaults involving knives and the increasing reports of young people carrying edged weapons.

“Sadly, we are seeing a growing number of young people telling our youth workers that they feel they need to “arm up” to protect themselves from this violence on our streets,” said Les Twentyman, founder of the Les Twentyman Foundation.

Our health system, which sits on the frontline of these attacks has seen a surge in victims appearing in Emergency, with Victoria’s leading trauma hospital, The Alfred, detailing that the number of patients it has treated with life-threatening stab wounds has grown 50% this year.

Senior surgeon Joseph Mathew — who is the deputy director of  The Alfred’s health trauma services has stated that young people made up a significant portion of the stabbing patients.

“It is quite alarming because the age group that is represented in this is between the ages of 15 and 30, So the damage that has been done is quite devastating.” Dr Mathew said.

Mr Twentyman believes too many young people are carrying a weapon of some sort not specifically intending to go out to launch trouble, but due to fear of being set upon themselves.

“Many young people are carrying knives out of fear. They think if they are going to get attacked, they need something to defend themselves.”

“As someone who has in my work on the streets been stabbed twice, and had a shotgun put to my head, I can tell you that it is a terrible experience to be violated by a weapon,” he said.

During his regular spot with 3AW Mornings, Child and Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg discussed his concerns over the rise in knife related attacks confronting our communities.

Dr Carr-Gregg stated that recent research had indicated that exposure to violence in a young person’s life saw each incident of violence increase the likelihood of a young person carrying a weapon by 6%.

He also says that tackling a lack of respect for authorities and the need for better education of young people is critical to combat this rise in violence.

“There’s low trust in the police, and lack of respect for police amongst young people. We need to divert kids away from this obsession with knives, we need to obviously invest in youth organisations and extracurricular activities, and we need to invest in police in schools programs,” he said.

Mr Twentyman agrees with Dr Carr-Gregg that educating young people on the dangers of life-altering consequences associated with using weapons is another possible way of deterring youth away from violent behaviour.

“We need to be having more knife exchange programs and using ambassadors that young people look up to going into schools and emphasising to our young people that the use of weapons is simply unacceptable,” he said.

In 2006, Mr Twentyman and his team, with the support of police and the State government set up a knife exchange in Footscray and in a 2-hour period they collected 52 weapons off the streets and used them to create a statue that currently sits outside Footscray Police station.

A monument to the Knife Exchange program made from knives exchanged that sits outside Footscray Police Station (picture supplied)


“In 2-hours we took 52 dangerous weapons off the streets, and we need to run such a program again as we’ve got kids killing kids and that is unacceptable to all Australians,” said Mr Twentyman.

Dr Carr-Gregg who sited the work of the Les Twentyman Foundation on 3AW agreed that something needs to be done now.

“We surely have to do something, people are dying, this is a serious social issue,” Dr Carr-Gregg pleaded.

As a community, we need to do everything we can to stop this senseless violence as we know the devastating consequences associated with violent attacks for both the victim, perpetrator and their families.

Which is why the Les Twentyman Foundation urges all parents to talk to their children about the dangers of carrying weapons and to seek support from local youth workers should they be concerned that their children may be at risk of carrying a weapon in the streets.