Qld govt urged to rethink youth crime plan

·3-min read

The Queensland government insists it's dealing with root causes of youth crime like poverty and disadvantage amid a crackdown on young offenders.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the government will allow courts to fit offenders aged 16 and 17 with GPS trackers and remove the presumption of bail for those caught committing serious offences while on bail.

She says the measures target about 400 repeat offenders, most of whom are Indigenous, who are responsible for almost half of all youth crime in the state.

Queensland Council of Social Services chief executive Aimee McVeigh warned that increasing punishments won't stop youth crime.

"The only way to reduce youth crime is to put in place the supports and programs that address the underlying issues faced by these children," she said in a statement.

"The correct approach requires time, money and commitment. There are no shortcuts."

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, the Youth Advocacy Centre and Save The Children say funding programs to reduce social and economic disadvantage will break the cycle.

They said the government needed to take a long-term perspective and invest in secure housing, mental health and family support services and activities for young people.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart, who holds the seat of Townsville, where youth crime is pronounced, insists the government is addressing underlying factors.

"We know this is not happening just because of the last couple of weeks or the last couple of years. This has been generation after generation," he told reporters.

"It won't fix overnight, we are determined as a government to look at every single aspect of it that we can."

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said preventative programs like the police mentoring programs Project Booyah were already diverting young people from the criminal justice system.

She said the number of juvenile offenders in Queensland had been dramatically reduced in recent years.

"I think that is being addressed, and that will continue, and I know government's talking about further progress in that regard," she told reporters.

Queensland Police Chief Superintendent Brian Huxley said youth detention centres often offered a safer place for young offenders than the streets, which was terrible.

He supports the crackdown, but admits locking up children and throwing away the key is not the answer.

"We've got examples of some of these young people who had both parents commit suicide. As a young person, what does that do to a young person?" Chief Supt Huxley said.

"It's an incredibly sad set of circumstances - it's absolutely no excuse for the behaviour, and what they actually do to the rest of the community - but I think it gives a window into the complexities of these young people and the fact that there's an enormous amount of work and effort that needs to go into turning them around."

Save The Children executive director Matt Gardiner says the government needs to properly fund community programs, which have been proven to divert young people away from the criminal justice system.

"These programs have been evaluated, and they work," he said.

"Our initiatives have reduced offending rates and kept young people off the street, and as a result of these programs and others, youth crime is at an all-time low in Australia."