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Sisters Inside urge Cairns Regional Council to reject Palaszczuk's prison plan and invest in community-led solutions

Joseph Guenzler -

Justice organisation Sisters Inside will be speaking to the Cairns Regional Council Wednesday, 19 April, encouraging it to support community-led solutions to ensure the safety of Cairns' children, rather than endorsing the Palaszczuk government's children's prison plan.

"There are a variety of programs and activities for children and young people that are pro-social and support young people's sense of belonging to their community," Sisters Inside chief executive Debbie Kilroy said.

"Cairns Council could support school breakfast programs, after school activities like youth touch competitions, art groups, youth hubs, transport services and lean on community members who are already taking the initiative to operate similar programs."

Ms Kilroy believes Cairns Council has a unique chance to envision a new future for its community.

"Building these prisons will change this community forever and it will take the community down a path of destruction," she said.

"Cairns Council can lead the way on blocking these prisons and demanding support for programs and services that we all know will invest in better lives for our children."

She notes that numerous community-led initiatives that are run by First Nations people, such as Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good, Club Fight Back-Yarraba, and Sovereign Yidinji Government, have not received enough funding to provide essential services that can transform lives.

Sadly, she believes the Queensland government's prison plan will damage generations of Cairns families to come.

"It is in Cairns Regional Council's best interests to be the local light of hope," Ms Kilroy said.

"This community deserves to be resourced to be the change they wish to see in their communities."

Ms Kilroy said children needed access to inclusive programs that met their needs.

"Building up children does not mean imprisoning them. Prisons harm. They do not correct behavior, they entrench children in the legal system and they institutionalise them," she said.

"Prisons teach children they don't matter and they are inherently bad. We need responsive care and that means making sure children's needs are met – the need to thrive, to be seen, heard and connected."

She urged Council to help ensure State and local funding was directed to community organisations working for change and not those that are run by police or youth justice.

"We are talking about First Nations' programs run by mob specifically for children," Ms Kilroy said.

"Children need to be uplifted and feel they are part of a community and can become valued community members.

"We believe Council has the opportunity to do this by standing with Sisters Inside and standing with community and rejecting the State Government's prison plan."

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