Teenagers in underpass tunnel.Photo Nicholas Falconer / Sunshine Coast Daily
Teenagers in underpass tunnel.Photo Nicholas Falconer / Sunshine Coast Daily Nicholas Falconer

Lauga says juvenile offender background stories horrifying

CONSIDERING the story of a 14-year-old boy setting fire to school artworks to "release anger” due to his traumatic childhood filled with substance abuse, neglect and physical abuse, it's no wonder there's a push to address youth needs in the justice system.

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga has heard such stories and they've terrified her.

She has thrown her support behind prevention programs being discussed in parliament as the State Government looks to pass the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.

Mrs Lauga said prevention programs such as improved parenting and addressing mental illness and drug abuse were proving effective in the fight to decrease juvenile crime.

"We know that prevention programs such as those that improve parenting, strengthen community, support families at risk and address mental illness, disability and substance abuse ... are not only effective but also extremely cost-effective,” she said. "Prevention generates long-term savings to taxpayers by reducing pressure on detention centres, police and justice systems.”

Mrs Lauga said the Palaszczuk Government was "absolutely focused” on keeping communities safe and reducing offending and reoffending while holding young offenders to account.

It was "well established” that children and young people who had experienced trauma and maltreatment were directly linked to the increased risk of offending and reoffending.

"We want to change that story for our communities and our children and young people, and that means working differently to do more of the things that address youth crime and keep our communities safe,” she said.

"Many young offenders have been exposed to more trauma, violence and drugs than most adults.

"I have talked to children involved in Project Booyah and Transition 2 Success ... and some of the things they have been through from such an early age terrifies me,” she said.

"These factors are directly linked to the increased risk of offending and reoffending.”

Mrs Lauga said she supported the Bill, which introduced an information-sharing framework to assist government and non-government organisations to assess and respond to the needs of young people in the youth justice system.

One of those could be a 14-year-old boy who was sentenced in May for his involvement in an arson attack that destroyed students' artwork and caused $148,000 damage at a Rockhampton school.

Rockhampton District Court was told the teen had been exposed to pro-crime attitudes in his childhood, substance abuse, neglect and physical abuse. He told youth workers the fires were a way to release anger and frustration.

Mrs Lauga said that at a community safety forum she hosted recently in Yeppoon, parents of juvenile offenders and some agencies had expressed frustration with the sometimes disjointed management of cases between government and non-government agencies.