Advocates urge targeted programs in youth crime plan

Fraser Barton |

Youth crime has been a hot topic in Queensland with advocates calling for targeted programs.
Youth crime has been a hot topic in Queensland with advocates calling for targeted programs.

The future of Queensland’s youth justice strategy remains up in the air as advocates call for targeted programs to be front and centre in how the government tackles crime. 

Members of the Queensland Council of Social Service, the Youth Advocacy Group and the Queensland Police Service First Nations Advisory Group came together on Friday calling on the government to outline a youth justice plan, with the current one set to expire this month.

Early intervention programs and diversion away from the youth justice system should be prioritised, advocates say.

They have also questioned how the government can maintain community confidence without a devised plan so close to the current strategy expiring.

Dealing with the underlying causes of youth crime, domestic violence, housing security, mental health and disability issues and access to support services should be front of mind, QCOSS chief executive Aimee McVeigh said.

“Queenslanders should be able to expect a government that can competently keep the community safe and at the same time, treat children humanely and have an appropriate response to victims of crime,” Ms McVeigh said.

“Right now, our youth justice strategy is expiring and there has been no consultation on what the future direction of the Queensland government’s youth justice strategy should look like.”

Ms McVeigh said Queensland had both the highest rates of crime among children in the nation and detained more children than any other jurisdiction in Australia. 

She said youths were more likely to reoffend after being involved in the justice system and the new strategy should balance community safety and confidence, operating through services with proven track records.

“Services do work, services help to identify what the root causes of crime are and make sure that women and children are living in safe environments, dealing with domestic and family violence, making sure that children have access to allied health professionals…these things do work.”

Youth Advocacy Group chief executive Katherine Hayes said engaging organisations at the earliest stage and providing wraparound services must be addressed,

Ms Hayes said Friday’s roundtable hoped to devise coherent solutions that would be listened to by both the government and opposition. 

“Because we know the solutions to youth crime and that’s providing early intervention and rehabilitation, but we just need to commit to that course,” she said. 

“The biggest victims of youth crime are young people themselves. They’re by far the biggest cohort that are the victims of youth crime, and they need to be supported so that they don’t get into that cycle themselves.”

In response to youth crime, the government this year established an independent advisory group to streamline feedback and a bipartisan youth advisory committee to be chaired by independent MP Sandy Bolton.