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Source: Government of Queensland

The Palaszczuk Government is delivering on its five-point plan to tackle youth crime with contractors announced to deliver a new On Country program in North Queensland.

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said Gr8motive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation had been awarded the contract to deliver a $1.5 million On Country trial in Townsville following an open tender process.

Overall, the government is investing $5.6 million over four years in trials of On Country programs in Cairns, Mt Isa and Townsville. 

“The Palaszczuk Government has listened closely to residents and community leaders in Townsville about what they believe is best for their community and young people,” the Minister said.

“Courts and the police will be able to refer high risk 10 to 17-year-old offenders to an On Country program for up to two months under the supervision and guidance of Elders and Traditional Owners.”

Minister for Communities and Member for Mundingburra Coralee O’Rourke said the On Country programs were a key part of the government’s five-point plan to crack down on youth crime announced in March.

“Although we have seen a drop in the number of young people committing offences there’s still a small hard core group of 10 percent of repeat offenders who commit 44 per cent of youth crime,” she said.

“These On Country programs will target these repeat young offenders, giving them the support to turn their lives around and hopefully get them back into education or a job.”

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said the trials of the On Country program came directly from discussions with community leaders.

“Community elders want kids to be held to account and want them to contribute to their communities,” he said.

“This program is an important part of this and is part of our crack down on youth crime.”

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said it was important to tackle youth crime from a range of angles.

“That’s why this trial of the On Country program is part of a five-point plan to crackdown on youth crime,” he said.

“In June we amended the Youth Justice Act to make sure any young person that is deemed an unacceptable risk to the safety of the community must be refused bail.”

Repeat young offenders will spend six to eight weeks in the program, including time spent on country, with Elders and Traditional Owners who will offer intensive supervision and guidance to help them reconnect with culture and show them how to give back positively to their community.

Gr8motive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation chair Chris Anderson says the organisation has delivered community-based activities for Indigenous families since early 2017.

“We believe our program will create opportunities and assist young people in choosing better options in their lives and also connecting back to their cultural heritage,” Mr Anderson said.

“The goal is to reduce the numbers of young people entering the correctional system and to show these young people have much to offer back to the community.”

The Palaszczuk Government has committed $1.5 million over four years for the On Country program in Townsville with similar programs also established in Mt Isa and Cairns.

Other elements include a police blitz on bail by appealing court decisions where appropriate, new co-responder strike teams in which youth workers team up with police on shifts, and community-based crime action committees.

New funding for On Country programs follows record investment of more than half a billion dollars in early intervention programs and new youth detention centre beds.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what Gr8motive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation can achieve for a better future for repeat young offenders in Queensland’s North,” Ms Farmer said.   

Awarding the contract for On Country programs in Townsville was part of open tender process to ensure all potential contractors were given a fair go, and senior community leaders on the tender panels had the majority say in determining who was successful.

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