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Youth in the spotlight

Posted: 9am 10 Apr 2021

Queensland Youth Week starts today and runs until April 18. It’s a chance to celebrate young people in our community making a difference and to shine a light on what we can do to support those in need.

In recent months, the narrative around young people has been pretty negative, but there’s plenty happening in our community to change that and provide help to youth who need it.

Samoan Paddle Project

A project that came out of a Queensland Police summit on your crime prevention last year has been so successful at re-engaging young people with the community that it is likely to expand.

Speaking after the second summit, held last month, Moreton District Crime Prevention Unit officer in charge Sergeant Sarah Grayson said she hoped initiatives identified at this year’s event would be equally successful.

Sen-Sgt Grayson said the Samoan Paddle Project, run by Samoan elders each week, helped young people connect with the community.

“Kids who have been to court are directed to attend – it's for any kids, not just Samoan kids – and it’s run by Samoan elders,” she said.

“It’s been hugely successful and we’re exploring funding to get a second outrigger canoe.”

More than 130 people attended this year’s summit, brainstorming projects and initiatives that would engage young people and help prevent youth crime.

The ideas were distilled into five key areas to work on during the coming year.

“Education for domestic violence, funding for projects for initial and long-term sustainability, a one-stop services hub, the development of a 24-hour safe youth space and connecting and consulting with youth for outcomes and projects were the five chosen,” Sen-Sgt Grayson said.

“We’re also looking at a mini youth forum to consult young people, so they have input into the next summit.”

Redcliffe Area Youth Space

Redcliffe Area Youth Space (RAYS) Executive Manager Amy-lee Mayes says crime and violence occur in society, but it is not restricted to young people and is reflected in the broader population.

Amy-lee says the focus on young people is disproportionate and for the majority of perpetrators significant trauma had led them down this path.

“We know there has to be consequences, but we’re not going to change anything unless we address the underlying causes,” she says.

RAYS Business Manager Kathryn Kenny says when an individual is condemned, the trauma is repeated.

“It becomes complex trauma and can take many years to address,” she says.

Kathryn says crime and violence are often the byproduct of generations of trauma and a compassionate approach is needed.

“People don’t understand trauma and because they don’t understand it, they only see offending, aggressive language and people who don’t fit into society’s standards,” she says.

“These are symptoms of abuse, poverty and neglect.”

Amy-lee says the region has high levels of domestic violence order breaches and the focus in recent months has been on young people, not what has been happening to young people.

She says the youth crime rate has actually been dropping in the past 10 years, but rates of domestic violence have skyrocketed.

In her experience, the complexity of cases has increased, there is a lack of housing and a rise in substance abuse by young people ‘self-medicating’.

Kathryn is calling on the public and politicians to look at the evidence, and fund programs that worked instead of focusing on consequences.

She says there also needs to a greater understanding of trauma and how to treat those who have experienced it.

“We need to show them something different – show them kindness, show them compassion,” she says.

Chameleon Youth Housing

Chameleon Youth Housing Manager Carmel Reithmuller says the organisation has also identified youth domestic violence as an issue, recording a dramatic increase in the past two years.

“It’s a concerning trend – we have seen quite a significant spike,” Carmel says.

“We have had a 400 percent increase in domestic violence against youth in the past two years. I think it’s generational and COVID’s probably contributed, with people being confined.”

Carmel is also concerned about an increase the rate of young people dying by suicide in the region.

“The national average is 12 percent and we’re at 18.8 percent – it's a huge problem and it’s getting worse. We need to be able to get help for these young people and break the cycle,” she says.

Deception Bay Community Youth Programs

Deception Bay Community Youth Programs director Janine Botfield says building resilience among young people is the key to helping them take control of their destiny and realising they have a valuable contribution to make.

“We work to develop resilience in young people, so we don’t lose them,” Janine says.

“Particularly over home-schooling there was a big risk of kids disengaging from school, and we were able to offer services for them and activities to enable them to be engaged with us.

“Our YAMBI (Youth Access Moreton Bay Initiative) program allowed us to work with parents and families to help them engage their kids and help them understand the benefits of keeping up with school.”

Janine says an emerging and concerning issue is the rise in youth unemployment and under-preparedness for work.

She says rising unemployment among young people is partly due to COVID-19, with skilled workers flooding the job market as a result of redundancy.

“It’s something we need to talk about – we are seeing many young people who have a portfolio of certificates, but they’re not work-ready,” Janine explains.

“It was already difficult working with people to develop a work-readiness mindset, but because of higher unemployment those young people are further marginalised.

“While we’re helping them develop a positive attitude, the fact is that if they can’t find a job, it’s going to be really hard to maintain that resilience.”

State Government response

State Member for Murrumba Steven Miles says young people in our community inspirehim every day. “So many of them are doing great things at school and work, TAFE and university, sport and the arts,” he says.

“The number of young people offending in the Moreton Bay area dropped by almost 30 per cent last year thanks to measures introduced by the Palaszczuk Government.

“What we’re now dealing with is a small group of repeat offenders. In the Moreton Bay region, 10 per cent of young offenders commit 45 per cent of youth crime – those are the ones we’re targeting.”

Dr Miles says that’s why the government has introduced a five-point plan in March 2020 to tackle hard-core repeat offenders, which includes a crackdown on bail and co-responder teams to target anti-social behaviour and crime hotspots, including a team covering the Moreton Bay and Brisbane North area.

“These measures aren’t just aimed at keeping Queenslanders safe. It’s also about helping these young people change their own story,” he says.

And his message to young people in Youth Week … get involved in activities and celebrate.

For a list of events visit: https://www.des.qld.gov.au/youthweek and https://www.moretonbay.qld.gov.au/Events/Queensland-Youth-Week

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