• The On Country program will see Indigenous Elders and Traditional owners combat reoffending and crime with culture. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The On Country program will see Elders and Traditional Owners attempt to reconnect Indigenous youth offenders with their culture, in a bid to stop the revolving door of children in detention.
Douglas Smith

2 Jul 2020 - 4:42 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2020 - 4:42 PM

As a part of the Palaszczuk government's five-point plan to tackle youth crime in Far North Queensland, a unique program has been funded which will see Indigenous youth offenders spend time reconnecting with culture with Elders and Traditional Owners.

$5.6 million has been invested over four years on the trial program, called On Country, which will go to three Indigenous organisations from Mt Isa, Townsville and Cairns. 

On Thursday the Chair of Gr8motive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation, Chris Anderson, told NITV News that the program was looking at a "holistic model" which aimed to restore culture in Indigenous youth.

"What we're trying to do is get them back to their self-identity and obviously a cultural specialist is part of the component of On Country delivery," said Mr Anderson.

"This program is designed to put them into a positive light, and I suppose, creating opportunities around making better choices around those more positive circles. Using respect and using that on country, strong cultural component from there and bringing it back into the community."

Mr Anderson said the goal was to reduce the numbers of young people entering the correctional system, by showing the "positives" they had to offer back to the community.

In a statement on Wednesday the Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, Di Farmer, said the state government had "listened closely to residents and community leaders" about what they believe was the best way to go about tackling the issue. 

"The Palaszczuk Government has listened closely to residents and community leaders in Townsville about what they believe is best for their community and young people," said Ms Farmer. 

"Courts and the police will be able to refer high risk 10 to 17-year-old offenders to an On Country program for up to two months under the supervision and guidance of Elders and Traditional Owners."

Minister for Communities and Member Coralee O'Rourke said there was already a drop in the numbers around youth offending, but there was still work to be done. 

"Although we have seen a drop in the number of young people committing offences there's still a small hardcore group of 10 percent of repeat offenders who commit 44 per cent of youth crime," said Ms O'Rourke. 

"These On Country programs will target these repeat young offenders, giving them the support to turn their lives around and hopefully get them back into education or a job."

Awarding the contract for On Country programs in Townsville was part of an open tender process to ensure all potential contractors were assessed equally. 

Senior community leaders on the tender panels had the majority say in determining who was successful.

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