Townsville Community Champion report
A report by the independent Townsville Community Champion on youth crime issues, Major General (Rtd) Stuart Smith.
The Queensland Government has issued a response to the Townsville Community Champion’s report and accepts all its recommendations in principle.
Queensland Government’s response to the December 2018 report by the Townsville Community Champion, Major General (Rtd) Stuart Smith, AO, DSC—Townsville’s voice: local solutions to address youth crime
The Queensland Government has welcomed the report from the Townsville Community Champion, Major General (Rtd) Stuart Smith AO, DSC.
The report contains 23 recommendations, all community-driven, that focus on a range of prevention, intervention and rehabilitation actions. The report is the result of comprehensive consultation with community stakeholders undertaken by the Major General over the past year.
The Queensland Government has accepted in-principle all 23 recommendations and will begin implementation activity without delay. In particular, the government commits to implementing the recommendations through the development of a community-driven Townsville youth plan (recommendation 20).
As an immediate step, the government has provided a further $100,000 in funding for The Lighthouse, an after-hours drop-in centre for children operated by the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service. The funding will enable the centre to increase its youth services over the next four months, including the summer holiday period, to keep more children off the streets at night. This measure responds to the need for more after-hours services as identified in recommendation 11 of the report.
Multiple government agencies will be tasked with implementing these recommendations. A coordinated implementation plan will be developed by relevant Queensland Government agencies, overseen by the Executive Committee for the Townsville Stronger Communities initiative. This Executive Committee comprises senior representatives of key agencies. The government will also take into account the directions from the Major General about ensuring Indigenous input into the Executive Committee, as well as considering how best to continue to communicate and engage with the community.
Across government, we are united and determined to successfully tackle this complex issue.
The report, developed by a respected and independent community champion, is an invaluable tool as government shapes its response to effectively address community concerns.
It affirms much of what Queensland Government’s current policy has established: that sustained long-term solutions have a strong prevention, intervention and rehabilitation focus. In this way, the report shares many similarities with the Atkinson Report on Youth Justice, delivered by the highly-respected former Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson.
The Major General’s recommendations were considered in the development of the Youth Justice Strategy and will also inform the detailed Action Plan that sets out the practical steps to implement the Youth Justice Strategy and recommendations from both reports. The government’s response will also build upon the existing significant additional investment in youth justice services in Townsville under the government’s five-point plan and the Townsville Community Youth Response.
A clear picture has been painted for government about what needs to happen. Now we must deliver for the community.
Engaging the Community Champion was not about deflecting responsibility for this matter—quite the opposite. Addressing community concerns and implementing evidence-based policy is how we will deliver sustained change.
This government is committed to ensuring a safer Townsville not just for the days, weeks and months ahead, but for future generations.
Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group — About us
Headed by Acting Inspector Stephen Batterham, the group comprises senior representatives of key agencies to provide a whole-of-government response to youth crime.
The group targets identified repeat offenders and coordinates services for at-risk youths and their families.
The Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group is a multi-agency group made up of senior representatives from six different government agencies.
We were formed in late 2016 to help break the cycle of youth crime by dealing with the underlying issues that lead some young people to offend.
This can include poor school attendance, mental health concerns, drug and substance misuse, domestic violence and family dysfunction.
These issues don’t fit neatly into the traditional boundaries of one department, which is why we coordinate and connect a range of services across government and non-government agencies for young people and their families.
Our representatives are from:
- Queensland Police Service
- Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
- Department of Education and Training
- Department of Housing and Public Works
- Department of Youth Justice
- Queensland Health.
We are co-located with the Queensland Police Service’s Rapid Action and Patrols team in Condon.
About our work
Below is some of the day-to-day work of the action group.
Improving the transition of 18-year-olds in adult prison
The action group works with 18-year-olds in custody at the Townsville Correctional Centre to improve their transition into the community. Many of these young people have been in prison for months, and sometimes more than a year.
Our work involves connecting them to professional support services before and after their release.
These services typically include accommodation providers, mental health professionals, vocational education and training organisations, and youth support workers.
Childrens Court early response service
This early intervention service reaches out to families experiencing difficulties with anti-social behaviours and delinquency.
This service targets 10–14 year olds who are attending Childrens Court, but who are not yet entrenched in the criminal justice system.
To reduce the risk of re-offending, we give families the opportunity to be assessed and connected to relevant professional support services.
Re-engaging children in schooling
We understand the critical role that schooling plays in putting children on a positive path.
We strive to re-engage children in mainstream schooling or connect them to alternative educational facilities where appropriate.
Many at-risk children have underlying physical and mental health issues.
As part of our work, we organise health and mental health assessments for children and their families, and connect them to therapeutic interventions and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Addressing housing concerns
To address anti-social behaviour, we work closely with the Queensland Police Service to identify public housing properties that are subject to repeat visits from the police.
We also help families relocate to more appropriate accommodation as a response to domestic violence or negative peer groups.
Monitoring street checks
We regularly review Queensland Police Service street check data to identify young people frequently roaming the streets late at night.
This enables us to identify children that may need additional support.
Phone: 4789 9550
Report school truancy
Helping children to stay in school is an important way to reduce youth crime.
Staying in education is an important factor in reducing youth offending.
You can help report truancy:
- If the child is in uniform during school hours, and you recognise the uniform, contact the school directly.
- If the child is not in uniform during school hours, email the Department of Education’s North Queensland Region office at studentservicesNQR@qed.qld.gov.au or phone 4758 3222.
Schools use various processes to manage and track absences, including:
- Roll marking at least twice a day
- Notifying parents/carers when a student is absent from school without an explanation
- Following up with parent/carers if no response or reason is received from them
- Connecting students and/or parents/carers to a range of supports as appropriate
- Initiating formal action if a student has persistent absences for which a reasonable excuse has not been provided
- As a last resort, referring the matter to the Queensland Police Service for prosecution.
All situations are managed on an individual basis and each school may do this differently.
Explainer: the Youth Justice system
What happens to young people when they offend? Find out how the youth justice process works.
Police are usually the first point of contact for a young offender.
Officers always consider alternatives to divert a young person from entering into or continuing in the justice system.*A restorative justice conference brings victims and offenders together to discuss the young offender’s behaviour and reach agreement on how to repair the harm caused by the offence, and encourage the young person to take responsibility for their actions.
If police consider the alleged offending is serious enough for a young person to go further into the justice system, court action is required.
A young person can stay in the community until the outcome of the court process has been finalised or can be held in custody.
Most offending by young people will be heard by a magistrate sitting in the Childrens Court.
Courts interpret and apply the laws made by Parliament.
The Youth Justice Act 1992 is the main piece of legislation that applies to young offenders (10–17 years).
Townsville also has a Specialist High Risk Youth Court that makes sure all identified high risk and repeat young offenders (aged 10–17) appear in court before the same magistrate.
The magistrate works with the young person, their legal representatives and government departments to hold them accountable, keep the community safe and work towards reducing the young person from reoffending.
Courts must decide on a sentence for each young person based on their actions and their current situation.
Sentencing must be for one (or more) of the following reasons:
- Punish an offender for their actions
- Change (rehabilitate) their actions
- Discourage them and others from committing same or similar crimes
- Formally denounce an offender’s actions
- Protect the community from the offender.
In deciding what penalty is appropriate, the court takes into account the level of harm experienced by the victim, police reports, and other government agencies such as Youth Justice and Child Safety, or people connected to the young offender.
If the young offender is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, a submission from their community justice group will also be considered.
Sentencing options available to the court if a young person is found guilty or pleads guilty:
- Reprimand order
- Disqualification of drivers licence
- Good behaviour order
- Restorative justice process (with or without a supervision order)
- Treatment order (drug assessment/ education)
- Graffiti removal
- Community service
- Conditional release (suspended detention)
- Detention (in a detention centre)
- Intensive supervision
- A combination of any of the above
- Parents of the young offender can also be ordered to pay compensation to the affected third party.
Cleveland Youth Detention Centre
Cleveland Youth Detention Centre houses boys and girls from north of Rockhampton, as far north as Cape York and the Torres Strait, Mount Isa to the west and the Northern Territory border.
Rules are set down when a young person enters the detention centre. Poor behaviour is monitored and responded to.
There is a structured routine that usually begins at 7am and ends by 7.45pm, when lights are out. All young people in detention must follow the structured routine.
Movement of young people around the centre is monitored closely.
Structured programs delivered to young people inside the detention centre include schooling (run by the Department of Education), vocational education and training, health, sports and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural programs. Young people in Cleveland are more likely to be behind the average reading age for their age group.
Courts decide on community-based orders to provide young people with consequences for their offending, and to give them opportunities to gain skills and correct their behaviour through counselling and programs.
- Community service orders require a young person to do something for the community while making amends for their offending. The court decides how many hours work a young person must do.
- Probation orders require a young person to meet conditions such as completing activities and programs to help them not offend, and to follow rules set down by their youth justice case manager. The court decides on the length of the probation order (it can be up to three years).
Examples of activities, programs and intensive case management models:
- Working with high risk offenders and their families for up to 20 hours per week through intensive case management
- Community service work
- Transition 2 Success, which provides vocational training and education
- Cultural mentoring programs, such as Yinda.
See what the world looks like for Townsville children connected with youth justice.
Protecting your home
Help protect your home against break and enters by practicing good home security.
Frequently asked questions: Townsville youth crime
Youth crime forums
The independent Townsville Community Champion has held a series of forums to discuss solutions to youth crime issues.
Youth crime forums
The independent Townsville Community Champion on youth crime issues, Major General Stuart Smith (ret.), hosted a public forum in early June 2018.
Attendees were invited to discuss solutions to promote safety in neighbourhoods and support at-risk youth to stay positively engaged with school, learning and the community.
The themes that emerged included:
- increase police strategies and resources
- increase after-hours support to communities, children and families
- reconnect and rebuild relationships in communities
- provide additional support for children at school
- provide activities to engage and support children out-of-school hours
- incentivise children to attend school
- provide more support for parents and families of at-risk children
- hold parents to account for their children’s behaviour
- inform and be informed by the community about the types of services and support available to assist people
- provide cultural awareness and education to children at school
- harsher penalties for youth offenders.
Youth service provider workshop
Community views and themes from the public forum were shared with government and non-government youth service providers at a workshop in late June 2018 and a Townsville civic leaders’ forum in early August 2018.
Youth service providers commented on community-generated solutions, identified gaps and barriers to progressing solutions, and provided additional answers to deterring youth crime.
Common areas of focus:
- increase the access and engagement of young people and their families to services, activities and jobs
- increase community access to knowledge, information, resources and available services
- build cultural capability in community, schools and services
- increase flexible learning, engagement and resources in education
- provide greater support for parents and families
- improve service capability, capacity and resources
- increase focus on the evaluation of outcomes of services and programs
- communicate stories of youth resilience with the Townsville community.
- restrictions to services via funding, contract requirements and other challenges
- barriers to assisting young people and families are perceived to exist due to a disconnect between clients, services and government.
- the role of community in supporting young people
- better service integration and mapping of Townsville’s services.
Barriers and opportunities identified in the service provider workshop and the community forum will inform further work to develop feasible solutions.
Community leaders forum
A community leader’s forum was held in early August 2018.
Townsville community leaders—including the Townsville Mayor, state and federal members of Parliament, business leaders and Indigenous Elders—were invited to comment on solutions generated by the community and service providers, and suggest alternative and additional options.
- leaders and the community to work together using a coordinated approach
- provide transparent leadership and share information
- when holding youths accountable through community service, focus on youth skill development
- understand the needs of the cohort and their families
- understand what services are currently provided by the sector in order to make best use of resources
- educate, role model and mentor children
- increase cultural awareness.