Early intervention at Childrens Court

By Inspector Glenn Doyle

Sam Reuben and Zac Murphy — two members of the Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group

At the Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group, we’re focused on breaking the cycle of youth crime.

Ideally, this means intervening early wherever possible — a far better approach than waiting for kids to go off the rails completely before any action is taken.

For this very reason, the action group has added a new element to its current work with young offenders and their families.

Each week, we’ll be approaching the families of 10–14 year olds who are attending the Townsville Childrens Court for the first, second or third time and who have not previously been on a Youth Justice order.

Our aim will be to link these children and their parents or carers to professional support services to deal with issues such as family dysfunction, poor school attendance, drugs and alcohol, and mental health.

This approach is based on research which shows if a child under 14 has had two contacts with the criminal justice system, such as a police caution or a conviction, then they’re at high risk of committing further crime.

This risk is even higher if the child is not in school, or if they’ve been suspended or expelled.

This confirms that tackling youth crime isn’t simply about arresting and detaining offenders — schooling, in particular, plays a critical role.

While this is challenging work that requires perseverance, we know that getting children on to a positive path will deliver long-term benefits — not only to young individuals themselves, but to the wider Townsville community.