State Government pledges $11.7m for two-year Target 120 youth justice program extension

Sam JonesThe Kimberley Echo
MG Corp youth program manager Marcia Gerrard, Community Services Minister Sabine Winton and Kimberley MLA Divina D'Anna.
Camera IconMG Corp youth program manager Marcia Gerrard, Community Services Minister Sabine Winton and Kimberley MLA Divina D'Anna. Credit: Supplied

The State Government will commit $11.7 million to extend the Target 120 youth justice program across all operational sites until 2025, bringing the total cost of the program to $43.3m since 2017.

Target 120, developed in 2017, aims to support youngsters aged 10 to 14 who are at risk of becoming repeat offenders by providing them with appropriate services and support for a broad range of issues, including substance abuse, poor attendance at school, lack of housing, family and domestic violence, trauma and mental health issues.

The initiative has long been touted as a success story by the WA Government, with data showing nearly half of all participants have not had any further contact with police after starting the program.

On a visit to Kununurra on April 26, Community Services Minister Sabine Winton announced Budget funding for the program to run until June 30, 2025.

“This extension across each of our Target 120 sites is recognition of the genuine difference the program is making in our communities,” she said.

“It’s important we continue to support the great work of the local service providers and organisations who are helping young people turn their lives around.

“Addressing these issues takes all parts of the community and Government together. Our Government has now invested more than $43 million in this early intervention program, which shows our commitment to help tackle these longstanding and complex issues.”

However, the program has not been without its issues.

In last year’s Budget, the Government announced an $11 million expansion of the program to nine new locations.

However, at the beginning of March this year, six of those nine promised sites did not yet have an operational T120 program, including Carnarvon, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Karratha, and Newman.

Of those sites, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek remain without the program.

Premier Mark McGowan blamed staff recruitment issues for the lag in expansion, saying the Government had even explored interstate and international recruitment options for the program.

It comes after Police Commissioner Col Blanch flagged late last year that police had identified a “noticeable increase” in the number of young offenders who had racked up more than 50 offences.

He said that included a “cohort of young and at-risk youth who have acquired more than 100 offences and are repeatedly presenting in the justice system”.

It comes after new figures revealed a shocking increase on assaults on police officers across WA, particularly in the regional trouble spots of the Kimberley and Pilbara.

According to WA Police Union figures, there were 2½ times more officers injured in the line of duty in the Kimberley compared with the same time seven years ago.

So far this year, 21 Kimberley police have been injured in 17 incidents compared with eight officers injured in five incidents in the March quarter of 2017.

The Pilbara has had a similar alarming increase, with 25 officers injured so far this year compared with six at the same time in 2017.

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