Northern Territory businesses to play part in new $5 million youth offender program
A new program has been announced to keep kids out of prison in the NT. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)
Businesses across the Northern Territory are being asked to pitch in and partner to employ young offenders as a way of keeping them out of prison cells.
- $5 million Back on Track program goes out to tender tomorrow
- Program aims to keep 85 youths out of prison cells annually
- Announcement comes in wake of litany of problems in youth detention
The Labor Government has flagged a new $5 million diversion program called Back on Track, aimed at giving judges more options than sending kids to prison in Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Nhulunbuy, and easing the crush amid an ongoing youth detention crisis in the region.
Part of that program was expected to see youth service providers working alongside businesses to offer older offenders, those between 14-17 years-old, “support and mentoring through training and employment”.
The program adds to $18.2 million already funded for youth diversion initiatives across the NT.
Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield said “people who do the wrong thing must face the consequences … but we need to make sure young people get back on the right track — not become lifelong criminals”.
“Putting kids who are at risk of offending Back on Track is the way to do this,” Ms Wakefield said.
“While those who pose a serious risk to the safety of Territorians will still face detention, Back on Track will give us a better chance at breaking the cycle of crime so we can create a safer Territory.”
The program, which goes out to tender tomorrow, was expected to target up to 85 youths aged eight to 17-years-old annually.
Businesses to play role
The Territory’s small and big business sectors have been asked to play a role in helping keep kids from falling into a “cycle of crime”.
According to Territory Families, the Back on Track program would have a “strong link to the business community to find employment opportunities for young people during the program (and ongoing)”.
“The program will address at-risk behaviour, consequences and restitution, life skills and cultural connection, family capacity and responsibility, re-engagement with education, training and employment opportunities,” a media release said.
“An Expression of Interest, asking groups around the Territory to play a role in putting young people back on track, will be advertised tomorrow.”
Ongoing issues in detention
The program’s unveiling comes as reports continue to surface of the dysfunction inside detention centres in Darwin and Alice Springs.
Last week it was revealed that NT taxpayers had spent $1.27 million in repair costs to the notorious Don Dale centre and Alice Springs’ youth detention centre since July, due to a number of serious incidents including an eight-hour rampage in Darwin and two escapes in Alice Springs.