Supporting innovative justice strategies, WA Labor has committed $1.5 million to WA’s first justice reinvestment site in Halls Creek.

An election promise from the McGowan Government, the Aboriginal co-designed initiative Olabud Doogethu — which means, “all of us together” in Kriol — will be funded throughout stage two of the program.

Olabud Doogethu was co-designed and co-led by 11 Aboriginal communities and supported by the Shire of Halls Creek and Social Reinvestment WA — an Aboriginal-led coalition of 25 non-profit organisations working towards ending the over-representation of First Nations people in WA’s justice system.

In 2019, 74 per cent of imprisoned young people in WA were First Nations people. The Olabud Doogethu project first established a team of Youth Engagement Night Officers — known as the YENOs — in May 2019 to curb the high numbers of children who were roaming the Halls Creek streets at night.

The YENOs saw early success, with offences dropping from 138 to 44 in the first month.

Eighteen months since its inception, Olabud Doogethu has seen a 58 per cent reduction in burglaries, a 36 per cent reduction in stolen motor vehicles and a 28 per cent reduction in stealing.

It has also created at least 26 jobs for local Aboriginal people.

Olabud Doogethu Youth Engagement Night Officer Jacob Bradshaw. Photo by Reginald Ramos.

Now Olabud Doogethu is launching stage two of the initiative — culturally appropriate services and alternative education pathways for young people across the Shire.

It is also expanding the program to other areas, including the Tjurabalan communities of Kundat Djaru (Ringer Soak), Billiluna, Mulan and Balgo.

The $1.5 million from the McGowan Government will fund mentoring and learning on Country as well as culturally safe therapeutic, alcohol and drug services and diversionary options for pre-sentence orders.

Social Reinvestment WA campaign co-ordinator Sophie Stewart told NIT that stage two would move further into the underlying causes of offending and would expand from the circuit-breaking function of the YENOs.

“We’re looking at alternative education projects, the project is called On Track,” she said.

“It’s a combination of both intensive alternative education, and engaging people and learning on Country.”

Ms Stewart said On Track had been developed with Olabud Doogethu to target children who were highly disengaged from school.

“It’s an engagement pathway either back to school or into training,” she said.

“We’ll have community connectors in each community, and we will help implement community safety plans.

“The third part is a mental health response, working with local health services to facilitate a community-led mental health response.”

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the State Government was investing in programs that would “keep the Kimberley strong”. He said the $1.5m for Olabud Doogethu was part of $15m being dedicated to Halls Creek.

Divina D’Anna, the newly elected Labor MP for the Kimberley, said it was important that young people in Halls Creek had access to “high-quality, modern facilities”.

Ms D’Anna met the Olabud Doogethu team during her election campaign and said she believed it was an impressive group.

“They are an inspiring group of people who are passionate about providing pathways forward for at-risk Aboriginal young people in the Kimberley,” she said.

“It is incredibly important that projects to manage at-risk First Nations young people are run by Aboriginal-led reinvestment.

“Improvements to our justice system such as the justice reinvestment project will lead to a more balanced system that delivers better results for Halls Creek.”

Ms Stewart agreed, adding that SRWA’s role had been to advocate on behalf of those working the project on the ground.

“Our job is championing that work and communicating it outwards, documenting and evaluating that work to create safer communities,” she said.

By Hannah Cross