Cairns On Country program awarded

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation will deliver a four-year, trial On Country program for young repeat offenders in Far North Queensland as part of the Palaszczuk Government’s crackdown on youth crime.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said the trial follows extensive consultation with residents and community leaders on how best to support young people out of a cycle of crime.

“We have listened closely to people here and the strong message we received was that young people should be held accountable, while also having the opportunity to reconnect with their community in a way that works best for everyone,” Mr Healy said.

“I’m very aware of the concerns regarding youth crime in the Cairns community and as a result we have made changes to the Youth Bail Act, in addition to the introduction to On Country learning for our troubled youth.

“We have listened to the community and are trying new and measured approaches. We cannot use outdated practices and expect new and positive outcomes. If On Country learning can turn these young offenders away from a life of crime, then I’m all for it.” he said.

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said the $1.5 million On Country trial for Cairns followed an open tender process.

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

“They want young offenders to learn from their mistakes and contribute in a meaningful and positive way to their community.

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

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation CEO Kupa Teao said the organisation looked forward to sharing with young people a rich tapestry of cultural history and knowledge on behalf of the Yalanjiwarra Bama people.

“Through Dreamtime stories, each participant will be able to reconnect to their identity, and build on improving better relationships with families and communities,” Mr Teao said.

“It is an intervention program that has to work and it will work. It will create a pathway that can lead to a better life and strengthen their Wawu (spirit).”

Ms Farmer said the On Country program, also to be trialled in Townsville and Mt Isa, would send a strong message to repeat young offenders.

“While there has been a significant drop in the number of young people committing offences we’re seeing a hard-core group of 10 per cent of offenders responsible for 44 per cent of youth crime.”

“On Country programs are designed to give high risk, repeat offenders the support they need to turn their lives around and return to work or education.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to addressing youth crime and integrating local solutions to local circumstances.”

The On Country program follows a record investment by the Palaszczuk Government of more than half a billion dollars in early intervention programs, new youth detention centre beds, new co-responder strike teams and community-based crime action committees.

Awarding the contract for On Country programs in Cairns 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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