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A second chance for young offenders

17 March 2021, Impact of Our Work

Connecting back to community and culture and a better future  

For some young Australians a raft of social and economic factors can impact their chance to reach their full potential. Factors like poor health and lack of appropriate housing, low employment and education levels, dispossession and current and past government policies can turn a life of potential into one that becomes enmeshed in the youth justice system. 

But punitive action isn’t the answer to stop re-offending. Last month, the Queensland Government proposed changes to youth justice, which would see the introduction of GPS monitors for children, among other measures. 

Matt Gardiner, Save the Children’s Executive Director of Australian Services  said the Queensland Government needed to look at what actually works and to work collaboratively with young people instead of rushing through measures that won’t work.

Measures proven to work

Save the Children’s My Just Bail program supports young people on bail and at high risk of being remanded into custody. We work with young people aged 10-17 to provide a range of emotional and practical supports to help them re-integrate back into society through employment or education. 

Team Leader Nezler Tafua works in Mt Isa. He says bail support is crucial for young people to stop re-offending and get them on a better path. 

“My Just Bail is a voluntary program that helps young people stay out of detention. We can link them to mental health or drug and alcohol support, with housing or transport assistance, or simply the care and encouragement to stay on track.” 

Change can take some time, but we’re seeing positive outcomes. The young people we work with do want to re-engage with education, with different training opportunities and the workforce. With our support, they are aiming for a better future outside the youth justice system.

Nezler Tafua

Support through the day to day

Every day activities support the children to re-engage with more meaningful pursuits, says Nez. “Our program runs from Tuesday to Friday. On Tuesdays we guide them to re-engage in community, in education and employment. We might get bank cards done or get resumes done, if they're interested in finding a job. We’ll help them join any employment programs that are eligible to take them. 

“On Wednesdays we address life skills. We work on cooking, health and hygiene and budgeting as well. On Thursdays, we love to add a bit of culture into our program. Everyone enjoys a good fish here in the countryside. And that's our Thursdays.
    
“Fridays are our fitness days. We're sponsored by the local gym here in Mount Isa to have a fitness session. There's an allocated spot for us to train the kids and lift weights and have fun and just help them regulate their emotions and get rid of any frustration.”

Making constructive changes for the children

Throughout the program Nez says he has seen many children come out the other side, away from offending and back in school or employment. “From committing offenses to being accepted back into school. It's definitely a win for us with the support of their family, of course.”

“This program just goes to show, you can support children through building their skills and building their peer relationships and building their trust with adults to stop that offending cycle.”

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