Youth offenders, repeat offenders – their crimes and behaviours across QLD understandably have brought forward calls for greater punishments as part of further deterrence and consequences for their actions. Locally, we have had visiting teenagers stealing cars, and demonstrating appalling behaviour on New Year’s Eve, now two years in a row.  However, as Sandy recently wrote in Noosa Today January 20, the solutions are not as simple as we would like to think, however they are there.

Understandably, the response from many is to ‘lock them up and throw away the key’. Emotionally we would all agree, however during public hearings for an inquiry into Youth Justice in communities heavily impacted by youth recidivism such as Townsville, Mt Isa and Gold Coast, and from the enormous volume of submissions from frontliners, experts in crime reduction, and scientific papers; there is no simple solution including ‘throwing away the key’. This is very much a multi-faceted issue, with in the majority of cases, good outcomes with initiatives employed to divert youth from reoffending successful with 90% of juveniles committing a crime not moving on to what is classified as a ‘Serious Repeat Offender (SRO).

According to the Atkinsons Report (AR) 2022, (AR 2022, page 143) on 30 September 2021 there were 341 youth offenders identified as SRO’s in QLD, with an over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and concerning proportions of New Zealand, Pacific Island and African ethnicities. The report also shows that the proportion of young people offending on bail had increased from 47 per cent in 2019 to 53 per cent in 2021, and for the same period, the proportion of serious offending on bail increased from 14 per cent to 19 per cent. Furthermore, the number and proportion of young people on bail who committed a further offence that led to serious harm or death, also increased from 60 (5% of all youth on bail) in 2019 to 78 (7% of all youth on bail) (AR 2022, page 134). The full report can be found here.

Whilst there has been much discussion over the relevance of COVID impacts in these increases, for the purpose of this update, we will outline findings from pre-COVID through Sandy’s Legal Affairs and Safety Committee (LASC) investigations, including public hearings held in 2021 with the full Committee report available here.

Anecdotal evidence from those hearings presented that a high proportion of these youths show symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which in simple terms means that the damage done in utero to the brain leads to an inability to assess risk to themselves or others, as well consequences. Currently this damage is not curable and the many neuroscientists, behavioral specialists and researchers working on this were unable to give the LASC an answer on how these individuals should be treated to prevent reoffending. However, all agreed, including victims of their crimes attending hearings, that prison was not the answer due to the high potential for further criminalisation, leading to increased risk and danger to communities when they are released.

Sandy heard from witnesses, including police, where offenders would cry when not sent to juvenile detention. For some youth, detention is seen as preferable to what they experience in their home life. Their households could be dealing with drug and alcohol addicted parents or carers, overcrowding, domestic violence, and a lack of basics including food.

In everyday conversations, it is agreed that real consequences are vital for those who commit crimes. It is also agreed that deterrence, education, early identification including as early as pre-school, and behavioural interventions are key to minimalising criminal behaviours in youth. Queenslanders rightfully should feel safe in their homes, on our streets, and in workplaces.

We know that in a commonsense world, it makes no sense to punish adolescents through detention for nonviolent crimes and then return them to the environment that fostered the criminality in the first place. We also know that our prisons are overcrowded, with inquiries finding that when interred there are critical shortfalls in work programs and skills development, contributing again to the risk of further criminalisation on release. Government funded youth organisations, including counselling, are also often closed when their services are needed the most, such as weekends and evenings. Witnesses, in the public hearings, relayed that targeted intervention for repeat offenders was not in any way early, with reports that it was only on the 4th or more court appearance that these commenced.

Rectifying these shortfalls is a start. An additional option for the courts could also be introduced, and Sandy has supported ‘relocation sentencing’ options as put forward by the Katter Australia Party and Opposition MP’s, based on our communities’ views in previous Noosa MP surveys showing over 70% in favour of ‘boot camps’ and over 60% for other options for youth detention. This has not yet gained any support from government and is where young offenders are relocated to remote properties to work, develop life skills, respect and responsibility to others and self, away from where they can do harm. They would not be released back into the environment that fostered their criminality, until they developed the capacity to reform or reject their previous influences. A bonus is that whilst communities are kept safer, any wages could be saved towards buying their own cars instead of stealing them. Given that the Atkinson Report stated that it costs $1500 per day for imprisonment, it makes logical sense that taxpayer funds be utilised in a way that decriminalises, versus criminalises.

It has been difficult to access statistics on what has been classified as a failure of a previous boot camp trial, however there were reports from advocates` that participants did not reoffend at the rate of those who had been imprisoned in the first 2 years, however over a 5-year period these statistics showed that there was no difference, hence why governments have not supported.

However, we discovered that the trial of boot camps had been hastily implemented with no follow-on monitoring, mentoring or supports to the individual or their families, which leads to questions regarding an adequate analysis of these options. This has led to Sandy asking in Statements of Reservation, speeches and of the Minister for an expansion of the pilot program ‘On Country’ designed for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth, or similar, to provide an option to the courts for all minors committing nonviolent crimes, indigenous or otherwise. Youth sentencing has again been included in our current annual survey, and results from this survey will be posted to this website in February.

Given the increase in youth recidivism, for the 10% of adolescents that reoffend, we know current efforts are not enough. With legislation coming before Parliament in February 2023 for greater deterrence, understandably we are all concerned that there appears to be little understanding of the particular youth cohort who are traumatising communities across QLD, many with impacted cognitive ability and others who prefer detention, and who appear to not respond to harsher penalties. Whilst we are awaiting the bill to see full details of all proposed changes, some examples were included in the Premier’s media release here.

With farms and cattle properties across the country in need of workers and who could take on these offenders as they have many years ago, this could be a sensible option that should be considered.

Locally, there is much we can do to create greater safety;

  • Remember to lock up your car, even when home, your house, and any other valuables.
  • Stay alert for any suspicious behaviours, and report to our local police, whether during station opening hours or not, as there are always police on duty.
  • For emergencies, dial 000, or for non-urgent, use Police link via their online forms or call 131 444 and the information will be sent to local officers.
  • Starting or participating in a Neighbourhood Watch group who provide a vital link between police and community, and with very few currently operating in our electorate, there is certainly room for more. If anyone would like to start a group in their own neighbourhood, please email the Sunshine Coast District Crime Prevention Unit via
  • As of writing this, we are on the tail end of our annual Noosa MP survey so if you haven’t yet completed, take the time to, or even just the portion relating to issues such as youth recidivism and add in any further ideas in the ‘comments’ section, before 30 January, as resident feedback on this and other issues vitally important. You can find the survey at From mid- February, this link can also be used to refer to the results of the survey.

Sandy and our office continue to work with local police, our Regional Superintendent, Noosa Council and via the Minister for Police Mark Ryan, Attorney General Shannon Fentiman and Parliament to find solutions to better mitigate youth crimes and create greater safety in our community.

A factsheet on current services in the youth justice system is available here.

For any advocacy regarding youth crime within Queensland, please email the Minister for Youth Justice via and please cc’ our office in at