Recovery taskforce focuses on Indigenous issues

Date published: 27 September 2020

A successful program helping at-risk Indigenous youth get a drivers licence to assist them to find employment should be extended to help North Queensland recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic, TaskforceNQ announced today.

Townsville Mayor and TaskforceNQ steering committee chairperson Jenny Hill said the lack of a drivers licence had been identified as a barrier to obtaining employment.

“In the last census, Indigenous unemployment was 17.2 per cent and modelling indicates that it is likely to double to more than 30 per cent as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” Cr Hill said.

“As well as calling for funding for projects to create jobs in our region, TaskforceNQ has worked to identify other barriers to employment that, with the help of state and federal governments, we can tear down.

“The lack of a drivers licence is one such barrier.

“The ‘PCYC Braking the Cycle’ program helps disadvantaged young people aged 16-25 by providing free access to vehicles, road safety induction and mentor drivers.

“Around 70 per cent of those who participate in the program take on further education or employment opportunities within six months of completion.”

An evaluation of the program also found participants were less likely than other drivers to incur a traffic or speeding offence or be involved in an accident while it was also found to contribute to reduced crime and reoffender rates.

Cr Hill said the taskforce was seeking $3 million in annual ongoing funding to support the rollout of the program, which would allow more than 3000 young people from across North Queensland to undertake the program each year.

TaskforceNQ has also called for funding for two additional Indigenous sport and recreation staff as well as an expanded PCYC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth support service.

“PCYC Queensland is currently funded by the Queensland Government up to June 30, 2021 to deliver the Indigenous Community Sport and Recreation Program, which enables community-directed sport and recreational programs and activities for 5-70+ year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, across Townsville and 33 other communities” Cr Hill said.

“In the last six months, around 3500 young people have been engaged in more than 230 activities across the wider Townsville region through the program.

“This engagement was been particularly important as our community dealt with the coronavirus pandemic and the personal stress it has caused.

“We want to see this positive engagement expanded. That’s why TaskforceNQ is calling for $260,000 in annual ongoing funding to further expand the reach of the current Townsville base of the program.

“The taskforce is also seeking $60,000 in annual funding for PCYC’s Indigenous Programs youth mentoring program Catch Me If You Can (CMIYC).

“CMIYC has been designed to foster stronger connections between Indigenous communities and the Queensland Police Service.

“It aims to prevent crime by using sport as the driver and mentoring as the foundation for meaningful and sustainable relationships between police officers and local young people.”

Cr Hill said the PCYC Youth Support Service, which was currently delivered on Palm Island, should be extended to Townsville to ensure continuity of support for Indigenous youth who are sharing their time between the two communities.

“The service engages with young people who are at risk of disengaging from education or training or at-risk of self-harm and homelessness,” she said.

“TaskforceNQ believes that the current cohort of young people actively attending PCYC’s sport and recreation program in Townsville will support a platform for a Youth Support Service to be expanded across to Townsville.”

The taskforce is seeking $350,000 in annual ongoing funding for the establishment of PCYC's Townsville-based Youth Support Service.

All PCYC program initiatives proposed will collaborate to ensure young people are being referred between programs to support their personal development.