Jabalbina to deliver On Country program to help combat youth crime


Karlie Brady


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Organisers met to begin planning this week: Kupa, Bek, Allison, Lloyd, Richard, Linda, Scott, and Paisley. Image: Karlie Brady.

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation will aim to help young repeat offenders in Far North Queensland break the cycle of crime and turn their lives around through an On Country program.

The Mossman-based Aboriginal corporation was recently awarded the contract to run the four-year $1.5 million trial program as part of the State Government’s commitment to youth crime.

The intervention program will deliver cultural immersion camps at a location in Upper Daintree, with the aim of reconnecting youths, who have become lost, with their culture, helping to change their perspectives on life.

Courts and the police will have powers to refer high risk, 10 to 17-year-old Indigenous offenders, from Cairns to the Cape, to the On Country program under the supervision, guidance, and mentoring of Elders and Traditional Owners.

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation CEO Kupa Teao said the organisation looked forward to sharing with young people a rich tapestry of cultural history and knowledge on behalf of the Yalanjiwarra Bama people.

“Through Dreamtime stories, each participant will be able to reconnect to their identity and build on improving better relationships with families and communities,” he said.

Mr Teao said the program “is not a miracle pill” but with before and after camp support processes in place, it is a step in the right direction.

“It is an intervention program that has to work and it will work. It will create a pathway that can lead to a better life and strengthen their Wawu (spirit).”

Program organisers met this week to begin the planning process with camps set to begin in September.

Organiser, Richard Burchill, who has had experience with similar camps in the past, said it cannot be underestimated how important going “back On Country”, reconnecting, and listening to stories from Elders can be.

“It breaks down a lot of barriers and creates a lot of awareness for those who grew up with a great disconnect from their culture," he said.

Mr Burchill said it is important to look back at what has happened in the past to understand how they have got to where they are today.

“Programs before have sometimes been band-aid solutions. This one is more holistic, more about getting On Country, involving elders and allowing those young people to have a voice.

“It is not easy and no one is under any illusion it will be,” he said.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said the trial follows extensive consultation with residents and community leaders on how best to address youth crime.

“We have listened closely to people here and the strong message we received was that young people should be held accountable, while also having the opportunity to reconnect with their community in a way that works best for everyone,” Mr Healy said.

“I’m very aware of the concerns regarding youth crime in the Cairns community and as a result we have made changes to the Youth Bail Act, in addition to the introduction to On Country learning for our troubled youth.

“We have listened to the community and are trying new and measured approaches. We cannot use outdated practices and expect new and positive outcomes. If On Country learning can turn these young offenders away from a life of crime, then I’m all for it.” he said.

The program will also to be trialled in Townsville and Mt Isa.

The On Country program follows a record investment by the State Government of more than half a billion dollars in early intervention programs, new youth detention centre beds, new co-responder strike teams and community-based crime action committees. 

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