Youth crime ‘driven by dysfunctional families’


Dysfunctional families should be offered advice on parenting, nutrition, health and hygiene to stop children becoming criminals, a former director-general of Queensland's prison service says.

Keith Hamburger AM - who has written a series of reports on justice system failings across the nation - believes Queensland's crime problem lies with a lack of support for the state's lower class and indigenous communities.

Mr Hamburger said the Government should offer dysfunctional families advice on parenting, nutrition, health and hygiene as well as be given involvement in recreation and community pride programs like Tidy Towns.

"Existing laws are mostly adequate," he said.

"Sadly, the push for change has never been in the right directions so nothing changes and we wait for the next tragedy."

Former director-general of Queensland’s prison service, Keith Hamburger.
Former director-general of Queensland’s prison service, Keith Hamburger.

He also said juvenile detention centres should be phased out in favour for "24/7 supervised community facilities".

At least six indigenous communities have expressed interest in trying the concept, Mr Hamburger told The Courier-Mail on Tuesday.

But the idea has failed to gain traction with the State Government, despite it being first pitched in 2016.

"I believe from my experience that our approach to youth justice in Queensland is not holistic in addressing the underlying family and community causes of youth offending," he said.

"The problem that needs urgent attention is that crime, particularly violent crime, is largely created and driven by dysfunctional families in particular urban and regional communities beset by intergenerational poverty and unemployment."

Mr Hamburger said the State Government should establish a "Justice Reform Office" which would oversee policy and legal changes made by departments.

A Queensland Productivity Commission report in 2019 recommended the establishment of a Justice Reform Office, rather than further strengthening sentences or bail laws.

"The Justice Reform Office's role should be to drive creation of … Child and Family Community Hubs, in disadvantaged communities across Queensland," Mr Hamburger said.

"These entities will mostly employ local staff to deliver and co-ordinate services in a holistic manner to achieve family and community strengthening and reduce crime.

"It is my view that this JRO should be established as a matter of urgency."

The State Government was contacted for comment.



Originally published as Youth crime 'driven by dysfunctional families'

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