Newsroom

KAP jury out on new ‘Intensive On Country’ trial

Feb 21, 2024

State members of the Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) say the Miles Government’s new ‘Intensive On Country’ program aimed at addressing youth crime fails to deliver a solid punch and deliberately remains silent on key components of the KAP’s Relocation Sentencing Policy.

Although the language and objectives of the Intensive On Country program bear a striking resemblance to KAP’s Relocation Sentencing Policy, uncertainty remains about whether the program will fully align with the policy’s key pillars of (1) Remote location (2) Mandatory (3) Fixed term and (4) Intensive rehabilitation.

Hinchinbrook MP and KAP Deputy Leader Nick Dametto said he acknowledged the Government’s recent interest in KAP’s Relocation Sentencing Policy and their effort towards delivering a more intensive program aimed at curbing youth crime.

“It’s disappointing that it has taken a change of Premier, and a looming election defeat to have the State Government finally using language that indicates their trying to be tough on crime. But after so many years of advocating our key youth crime policy, we may finally get to see a version of it implemented,” Mr Dametto said.

“While the jury is still out on some of the finer details of this amended On Country program, and what the Government will allow providers to deliver, overall I would say it looks promising. For the first time we’re hearing language such as ‘residential’, ‘longer periods’, ‘life skills’ and ‘mental and physical health’.

“It’s brave of Premier Miles to be using this new and bold language, I can only imagine how hard it would have been for him to get this program through the left faction of the Labor party. I’d say the announcement has been quite uncomfortable for Youth Justice Minister Di Farmer who previously opposed the concept of Relocation Sentencing.

“We’ll see what comes from the Expressions of Interest process, but I would urge any potential providers to strive towards implementing the key pillars of our policy if they are going to be successful in their efforts.”

Mr Dametto also expressed his disappointment at only First Nations offenders being eligible for the program.

“The Government’s decision to prioritise First Nations youth offenders is recognition of the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities, however I think the big picture approach needs to be holistic and inclusive, all candidates regardless of background could benefit from this style of program.”

KAP Member for Hill Shane Knuth said while he was cautious, he acknowledged the Governments recognition towards KAP’s Relocation Sentencing Policy, which has merit.

“KAP has been working on this policy and communicating with victims of crime for seven years and finally it is good to see the Government has added some of our initiatives to their ‘Intensive on County’ program,” Mr Knuth said.

“Ninety-five per cent of youths that are released from detention centres commit another crime within the first 12 months. 

“Sending repeat youth offenders out bush, to learn skills and trades far outweighs sending them to a detention centre.”

Traeger MP and KAP Leader Robbie Katter said the announcement that the On Country program would continue with potentially a few enhancements portrays a disappointing lack of conviction to make hard choices.

“The program is compromised by trying to appease the progressives in the cities who don’t think we should be tough on chronic youth offenders,” Mr Katter said.

“The key principles like keeping the kids close to family when their family is part of the problem is not part of the solution.

“A major part of the KAP policy was to send chronic repeat offenders to a forbidding environment away from the luxuries they’ve become accustomed to, away from the criminogenic influences like social media and their peer groups.

“The remoteness factor was a strong deterrent to re-offending.”

Mr Katter said the original On Country program had no measurable impact on youth crime in Townsville, Mount Isa or Cairns and he said the proposed enhancements would do little to change that if the program was not mandatory.

“I defy anyone to look at the youth crime statistics in those places that previous On Country programs had targeted and find a correlation between the onset of the program and the level of youth offending.

“On Country 2.0 will be a waste of time if kids see it as an extended school excursion.”

Despite their reservations, KAP MPs remain committed to working collaboratively with the government and stakeholders where possible to see this new program rolled out and delivered in the most effective way possible with the best providers.

Photo: Hill MP Shane Knuth, KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter, KAP Deputy Leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto.