Young offenders will be matched with community groups, local organisations and the elderly to work on local projects in a new program to be rolled out across Queensland.
Following successful trials in Townsville, Inala and Mackay, the Restorative Community Service Order (CSO) program will match organisations and individuals in need of workers with young offenders to ensure they are genuinely giving back to the community while completing court ordered community service.
Minister for Youth Justice Di Farmer said the program gives local communities a say in how they would like young offenders to repair damage they have done.
The program would be officially launched in Mount Isa following positive feedback from organisations and individuals involved in the trials.
“This is all about young offenders being held accountable and repairing damage caused to the community by their actions,” she said.
“Over the past three months, we’ve had young people working in the gardens of elderly residents, in not-for-profit organisations and community gardens.
“There is a big difference between being ordered to pick up rubbish and working closely with locals and community groups to give back in a meaningful way.
“We also see this program as a pathway to work experience with local organisations and an opportunity to gain new skills and eventually a job.”
Ms Farmer said youth justice workers in Mount Isa had already successfully matched three girls with the Salvation Army to sew toiletry bags for a local domestic violence shelter.
Mount Isa Youth Justice Manager Elva Metcalf said that in learning to sew, the girls had made important connections with local volunteers.
“They made a meaningful contribution to the local DV shelter and they also made Santa sacks over the Christmas period that were distributed to families in the remote Urandangi community.
“Our young people often lack positive role models and have limited family support, so this program connects them with community leaders who can play a small part in getting them back on track,” she said.
In Townsville, elderly residents living in social housing were very positive about their experience with the young people who had worked at their properties:
“The young people worked well, I gave them vegies from my garden to take home,” said one resident.
Another said: “I am grateful for this assistance; it is a great idea to allow young people to give back.”
Restorative CSO pilots began in October 2019 in response to Major General (ret.) Stuart Smith’s report recommending the identification of work programs for young people that emphasise giving back to the community in meaningful and visible ways.
In establishing a Restorative CSO, the young person, their family and community representatives meet to share ideas for work activities that would repair damage to the community. The meeting also gives the young person a chance to be involved in the decision-making process.