Moree community service Miyay Birray is working to channel young people at risk of incarceration away from crime and into a more positive future.
The service runs a “Youth Get Wise” program for Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids aged 12 and up who are referred to them by Juvenile Justice or the local courts.
Miyay Birray’s chief executive officer, Darrel Smith, said the four week program was introduced after recognising a support need among young offenders.
“There are plenty of services in town but most are funded for programs targeted 16 and 18-year-olds or above,” he said.
The program is split into two age groups – for younger and older kids – and runs after school in two-hour sessions, four days a week.
Miyay Birray team with other services to provide information and referrals on a wide range of issues including drug and alcohol use, counselling, mental health and employment. Sessions are also held on Indigenous culture, family history and identity.
“Service providers come in and run sessions that are like a ‘taster’ of the programs they offer,” Mr Smith said.
Attendance is made a compulsory part of bail or Juvenile Justice conditions while Miyay Birray assists on a practical level by running a bus service to their homes and back.
Mr Smith said that families also play an important role in helping children attend the program and in following up on the interests and directions identified during the sessions: “We try to work with their parents as well.”
While acknowledging the support provided by a number of services to Moree’s young people at risk, Mr Smith said he would like to see more designated positions or targeted hours aimed at reaching the “younger kids”.
He also identified the need for more specialist child and youth services located in other towns like Tamworth, to travel to Moree, so transport problems don’t stop people from accessing them.
Crime figures for the year to March 2017 show the number of recorded offences committed by juveniles aged 10 to 17 years, in the Moree Plains Local Government Area, included: 77 thefts; 26 counts of malicious damage to property; 16 non-domestic assaults; 26 instances of disorderly conduct; and eight drug offences [Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research].