Youth on Track celebrates supporting 700-plus young people

Celebrating the success of Youth on Track in Coffs Harbour: Social Futures’ Program Manager of Children, Youth and Families, Kiara McBeath, NSW Police Senior Constable Tegan Baker (youth officer) and Youth on Track program worker Lucy Mortlock.

THE Youth on Track team was in Coffs Harbour’s Botanic Garden on Tuesday to celebrate the success of its youth diversion program.

In seven years, the Youth on Track program has supported more than 700 young people in the Coffs Harbour–Grafton region to make positive life changes and avoid further contact with the criminal justice system.

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Social Futures is a not-for-profit organisation serving regional NSW and delivers Youth on Track on the North Coast.

This program was developed by NSW agencies, including the NSW Police Force and the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, and NSW Health.

Social Futures’ Youth on Track Team Leader, Kiara McBeath, said Youth on Track (YOT) is for young people who have had contact with the justice system or are at risk of contact with the system.

“It is often the youth liaison officer appointed by police, who refers the young person to YOT.

“The average age of participants is fourteen years,” she said.

“These young people are often aware that they are heading in a direction that will take them to an unhappy place – incarceration.

“Many of these young people want to change their lives, but just don’t know how.”

Social Futures started delivering this program in December 2016, and have just enrolled their 725th participant.

In 2022–23, 100 percent of program participants had reduced their criminogenic behaviours at completion of the program.

“We’ve seen young people estranged from their parents heal that relationship and return home,” Kiara told NOTA.

“We’ve seen youth disengaged from school, catch-up with their studies and continue on to Year 12.

“We’ve seen young men and women recognise unhealthy relationships with partners and peers that has led them to drug use and criminal behaviour.

“They have made the decision to end those relationships and replace them with healthy life choices.”

Kiara said many YOT participants coming into the program had received a formal warning from police or been charged with an offence, or the courts had placed them on a conditional release order in the community.

Participants usually stay in YOT for 12 months.

“Our YOT workers take a holistic approach.

“They listen to the young person with the aim of developing an understanding of every aspect of their life.

“They will also connect the young person to the support services they need, such as psychologists, doctors or family counselling.

“They will talk to them about what makes them vulnerable to offending, including friendships and drug and alcohol use, and becoming disengaged from school.”

The result is many young people improving their relationships with family and school friends and choosing to distance themselves from peers who offend.

The team said it is heartening to work with young people who rediscover their faith in the future and start setting life goals, like getting a rewarding job, travelling and having healthy relationships.

The Coffs Harbour‒Grafton region has one of the highest program success rates in New South Wales.


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