Community & Business

20 May, 2023

Program making a real difference with youth

SOLVING underlying issues, such as neglect, abuse, and mental health problems in youth at risk of entering or already in the Youth Justice System, is the step needed to prevent the ongoing youth crime epidemic, according to Mission Australia.

By Ellie Fink

Program making a real difference with youth - feature photo

The non-profit charity group has been operating its Strong, Together, and Resilient (STAR) program in Mareeba, Atherton, and Herberton for the past five years, achieving a “strong success rate” with youths aged between 8-17 at risk of entering the Youth Justice System.

Through intensive case management, Mission Australia has addressed underlying and intersecting issues, including intergenerational trauma, family disconnection, out-of-home care, mental health issues, alcohol and other substance misuse, and family violence.

STAR has so far helped several young people develop pro-social skills through case work services and build essential individual, family, and cultural connections that have helped them return to the education system or vocational employment.

Program Manager Rachel Benton said the aim was to target the core reasons why youths were offending, with many of them coming from abusive homes or suffering from severe mental health issues.

“Our goal is to prevent offending and re-offending by building these young people up and addressing factors that are causing them to offend,” she said.

“We have good news stories (from the program), and they look different for everyone as they all have different milestones. For some, it may be helping them re-enter the education system, for some, school isn’t for them, so it might be finding a vocational pathway.

 “For a lot of those kids, going to school is the last thing on their minds because they may have a lot going on in their home lives, and we, as a community, need to be mindful of that.”

 Ms Benton has seen a significant reduction in reoffending since beginning the program, and with new funding from Youth Justice Queensland under their belt, they hope to assist more.

 “Young people need support and positive reinforcement to have positive outcomes and reach their full potential,” she said.

 “Detention is not only a negative experience for young people - exposure to youth detention also substantially increases the likelihood of involvement in crime as an adult.

 “By investing early, we can support young people's aspirations while at the same time diverting them away from the juvenile justice system.”


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