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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
07/05/2010
Involvement of Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the criminal justice system

CHAIR (Mr Debus) —I declare open this public meeting in Cairns of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into the high level of involvement of Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the criminal justice system. I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay respect to elders past, present and future.

I formally note that we are here conducting proceedings of the parliament, so everything that is said should be factual and honest. It can be considered a serious matter to attempt to mislead the committee. I invite witnesses to make comments that will assist us in our inquiry, which is open to the public. A transcript of what is said will be placed on the committee’s website.

I welcome our first witnesses. Everybody finds it useful if you make some form of opening statement before we begin discussion, but please do not feel so obliged. As I was saying to you informally before the session began, I think the committee is in no particular need of a systematic explanation of how your commission works. We have had a good deal of information one way or another in that respect, but we are very interested in your opinions about its success and the possibility that it may be replicated—the kinds of things you would expect us to be interested in. I am not sure whether you would like us to just go straight into questions or whether you would prefer to make an establishing statement.

Mr Glasgow —I would like to make a brief establishing statement, if that is appropriate, Chair. I will tell you who we are. Prior to taking this appointment, on Anzac Day 2008, I was the coordinating magistrate in Townsville and effectively had a management role in the Magistrates Court throughout North Queensland. In that role, in Townsville my colleagues and I established the youth Murri Court back in 2000 and the adult Murri Court. The youth Murri Court really interested us because of the significant number of Indigenous people who were in the community and the large proportion of Indigenous people who were before our courts. With regard to Palm Island, which has a population of 3,000 people adjacent and a large urban population of Indigenous people, I was running the Children’s Court for about five years and about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of people who came before the court were Indigenous. At that time they had many of the urban problems that we see in relation to both drug and alcohol abuse. It was either their involvement or their family’s involvement which really was, in many ways, a contributing factor to their criminal activities. My registrar also comes from the court process and was involved in the establishment of a trial program involving young Indigenous people, which was an alcohol diversion program.

We come with some experience in looking at the four communities of Aurukun, Coen, Mossman Gorge and Hope Vale. I will give you an idea of our involvement in those communities. In relation to the total family population, there were 1,209 people living in Aurukun, and of that population—and these are population figures that go back some time, to June last year—our assessment is that about 793 are legally adult, over the age of 17. That is the adult age in this state; it is 18 in other states. Of those 793 persons, we have had approximately 475 notifications. In other words, about half the population or a little over half the population have become involved in our notifications. We have similar figures for other communities, although they are smaller in number.

It is interesting to see that, for the 830 people in Hope Vale, about 600 of whom are adult, we received 360 notifications. We have not actually dealt with every one of those notifications, because some are not really of significance. It might be, for instance, a Magistrates Court notice which relates to someone taking fish or something rather than conduct which relates to children, their attendance at school, alcohol or violent programs. Essentially there has still been fairly direct involvement in the last two years in the lives of many of the people in these communities. Looking at your terms of reference, I see there are matters that have always been of interest to me. With my time in the Children’s Court and Tammy Sovenyhazi’s time in the alcohol courts and with putting this rather intense program to use, it is very interesting how lack of school attendance and lack of employment opportunity for young people seem to be directly related to misconduct, bad conduct or conduct which is unacceptable.

‘Unacceptable to whom?’ is the question. We are trying as part of our terms of reference to re-establish some norms in the community. They will vary from community to community because that is their assessment of what they see the normality of their community to be. The second objective is to enhance the Indigenous authority in those communities, and by sitting with Indigenous commissioners who have the same vote as I do and now chair those meetings—and in Aurukun conduct those conferences—we have been led to observe fairly intensely a community generally and children in particular. So, when looking at those various terms of reference, we can give you our observations, but I want to hasten the success or otherwise of the commission.

The Queensland and federal governments have spent a significant amount of money having an independent assessment of our performance in the first period of time. That is about to be delivered in this month or next, so it seems to me to be rather presumptive for me to come along and say how well we are doing when there is an independent assessment out there waiting to be delivered. In circumstances that happen on a day-to-day basis—and I spend every week in these communities—I can tell you that my view is that there have been some slow, positive steps forward and some gigantic reversals; but, generally speaking, if we look at statistics that come from other sections of the community there is support. The community has adopted a process of a bit of self-evaluation and a determination to make some improvement to their lives. I would like to end it there because they are the generic things I wanted to bring to your attention first. We do have a deep interest in this process. We are not about to go around and say how well we are doing when somebody else is about to evaluate us formally. I may have my comments when that becomes public.

CHAIR —I am rather anxious that my colleagues be involved in our discussion, because I believe that each of them is more familiar with your project than I am, they being Queenslanders apart from anything else. Would you agree, though, that it has always been unrealistic to expect that there would be anything but slow, steady progress? In other words, slow, steady progress seems to me—if that is indeed the final assessment—to be a most significant achievement.

Mr Glasgow —From my experience I would have to say I agree with that because with slow, steady progress over a period of time it is less likely that conduct will revert to previous conduct. I had expected some more rapid improvements in some areas. For instance, when we went into Aurukun the average school attendance rate for the year was under 40 per cent; it was about 39.something per cent. I had thought that, with a fairly intense process that we had and which was originally planned, that would improve fairly rapidly. We—when I say ‘we’, I talk collectively from the community—have seen a fairly significant improvement in Aurukun. School attendance this term is pretty close to about 70 per cent so far. It has been in the high 60s for the past three terms. I have always been a little suspicious of the actual accounting of school attendance—

Mr LAMING —Can you explain how that is done?

Mr Glasgow —We get figures from the Education Department. I have been a bit suspicious of their figures because I have seen people marked as attending school when some seem to have the afternoon off. When I made some inquiries I was told: ‘Little Louie only goes to school in the mornings. That is the agreement that we have with Grandma and Granddad.’ ‘Why do you have that agreement?’ ‘He doesn’t have the tolerance level to stay at school all day.’ ‘If he goes half a day, does that mean to say he has a full day’s attendance in your figures?’ That is why I am saying suspicious. Since the academy has taken over this year I am more inclined to accept the accuracy of the figures. The academy took over from January and first-term figures for Aurukun are 65 per cent. I am inclined to accept that they are more accurate figures than they were last year, because I have had some clear indication that the afternoon rolls are actually marked in the afternoon now when, I was led to believe, the afternoon rolls last year were marked in the morning at times. What has happened this year is the case managers who are employed by the institute have access to figures and carry their own figures. I look at both figures and see they are more inclined to be very similar this year than they were last year. So, when I say term 1 this year has been 65 per cent, I am pretty sure that it has been 65 real per cent.

CHAIR —Are there other indicators?

Mr Glasgow —Other indicators in the community include the number of people whom we would refer to the family income management system which has been set up by the Commonwealth government. That is a system where people go, voluntarily or through a direction from the commission, to develop a family budget, to develop a savings plan, to learn about internet banking, to be able to get a password so they can use their banking by phone—as you know, Aurukun is a very isolated place—and to have choice of banks when there is only one bank in the community. In the last two periods that has been quite successful, with more people voluntarily going and people turning up when we request that they turn up.

Other figures include the court figures. As you would know, one of our triggers is someone who has pleaded guilty to a Magistrates Court and been dealt with on that Magistrates Court matter. The number of notifications is available. When you analyse those matters, the numbers in relation to assaults have decreased and the numbers in relation to domestic violence have reduced. If you then match that with what I have been told for hospital admissions, particularly on Mondays and Tuesdays, it is significantly reduced. The fact that the tavern has been closed since November 2008 has been a significant impact, though the amount of sly grog in the community has increased.

If you look at the prosecutions and go and talk to the police, again, off the record—and I know this is on the record—they will tell you that they are having more notifications from citizens about co-citizens bringing grog in than they have had before, so their job has become easier. There is a significant improvement in the sense that local people are taking some responsibility and will tell the police, ‘This one has gone off to Weipa to buy grog. If you watch the car coming back, you will find it.’ That is happening more often. Whilst numbers are going up, you really need to look at what the numbers really constitute.

There have been improvements in the sense that the number of people admitted for domestic violence related matters have reduced. The number of hours spent by staff in hospital on Mondays is fewer. One of our commissioners used to work at the hospital and had employment there for 26 years. She always told us that Monday was an extremely busy day because of the weekend problems and people going to Weipa and coming back and levying retribution on neighbours, friends, former friends or family. She was telling us towards the end of last year the amount of work on Mondays was really significantly decreased. The number of patients coming into the hospital had decreased. These were matters that raised some optimism.

The other thing is that, in the time we have been there, we have dealt with a number of people and income managed a number of people. This is interesting: our statistics on the people who have been income managed show only about 40 per cent have got involved again in further notifications. So there seems to be, from what we can see—and I have got to know a lot of these people, so I see them around the community and I know the ones who have been rolling drunk before and can see that they are not rolling drunk now and are turning up with their families—small steps and small attitudinal changes.

Challenges that have arisen are what you are referring to about the children. When you talk about Aurukun everyone expects something extraordinary. Occasionally things do happen badly up there, but things happen occasionally everywhere. There are problems with the kids on the street at night time. Occasionally they will do something rather untoward and cause damage to the community. There are groups of children who still need to be put back into a school system. Whether they are under the primary school system or the adult system is dependent upon what school is available. If you take the community, school only runs up to year 10. There is no education there for years 11 and 12, so they have to go to boarding school. They either go to Weipa or they go somewhere else. There is a group of children from years 7, 8, 9 and 10 who are intermittently involved in school. They will go to school depending on a whole lot of issues. Trying to get those children into a regular school pattern is so that they have some attendance records so that they can be accepted at a boarding school rather than parents saying, ‘The problems will be solved when they get to that stage, so they will go to boarding school.’ These kids are very intelligent. If they do not want to be at boarding school they will muck up and get sent home. Then you go through the process to find them another boarding school or to get that boarding school to take them back again. There is a small group of children who are really not ready to go to boarding school because of education requirements or behavioural requirements or just because of the isolation of children going away to boarding school.

The federal government has a plan to build a boarding establishment at Weipa. It was planned to be ready at the commencement of the next academic year, but I understand that will not happen. It will be the year after. That will accommodate a lot of children through all of the cape, including Aurukun. That will be something a little bit closer, so kids can go to boarding school and technically, if the roads are open, they could come home for the weekend. That may assist.

We have a number of children who have not been going to school. Let us look at the percentage. We worked out that there roughly are 260 kids in Aurukun and back in 2008 40 per cent of them were going to school. It was not that 40 per cent; it was 40 per cent of the population. So the 40 per cent was revolving. To give you an example, when I first commenced sitting out there in 2008 I would get maybe 190 notices that 190 children had missed three days of school. Of those 190, for several of them they might have been the only days they missed. Some of them may have missed everything. But there is a rotating population.

The key for this schooling is to try and encourage the children to come regularly and keep them early, so the concentration is on the early grades. Then we have that group who—once they turn nine, 10, 11, 12 or 13—are a management problem. If they are not at school, where are they, and where are they at night time? That is the difficulty of youth in the community.

CHAIR —It is implicit in what you are saying that it is part of the assumption of the project that getting kids to go to school is a fundamental element of breaking the cycle?

Mr Glasgow —Absolutely. If school becomes a matter of interest for children, and they continue to be there, they are not somewhere else where they could cause mischief. If they are busy, and there are activities for them during the evening, they are not on the street causing mischief. If the parents are convinced that there is an advantage out of education and there are job opportunities subsequently, then there is a good reason to continue.

I want to make it perfectly clear that at Aurukun there is a core group of people who send their children to school and save and send them to boarding school. We are not talking about the entire population. We are talking about a significant part of it, but there is a very rigid group of people who are determined to keep their kids in education and get them through the system. No matter how they try, a few kids will fall through the system, but many of them do get the kids educated. We have more and more kids now completing year 12, as Jim Turnour would know, because we have some graduates coming through the system.

CHAIR —Can I just raise two issues and then hand it to my colleagues. One is to ask you to comment on the role of Aboriginal elders in your program—about the attitude you take to their involvement. The other is to ask you to comment on the complaint, which I have read Noel Pearson make with some frequency, that not the least of the problems of small remote communities is that they are filled up with public servants all the time, often, it would appear, at cross-purposes.

Mr Glasgow —I will deal with the first one, although I am tempted to start with the second one first because, in some respects, I think that is a problem. I am very proud of my commissioners. In fact, we have a group of them down here today. I was about to say I should have brought them along. That sounds as though I have somebody to put on show. That is not true. They are my colleagues. They have come a long way in the period of time there. When I say the conferences are run by the commissioners, I mean exactly that. All of us have been to tribunals or applications for jobs where there are three people sitting and the one in the centre is always presumed to be in charge, as you are today. I sit to the left, so the attention is always directed at one of my colleagues. That commenced in November 2008. It has been running ever since.

The commissioners are aware of their responsibilities. There was no real training in the sense of training. They were selected on a process which I had little involvement in but they really self-selected in the community. In all cases, there have been no objections to them sitting because we had a fairly frank and clear discussion about conduct and code of conduct and conflict of interest, so they are well aware of those issues. In a practical sense, they are really tough people to deal with. They are tougher than I would be and, if anything, I remind them about ensuring that natural justice prevails. Their frustration at people’s refusal to do things after giving them a couple of opportunities results in the word I can often hear in Wik. Although I do not understand the language, I understand the word ‘BasicsCard’ very quickly and we know what they are talking to them about—‘If you don’t do these things, you’ll end up with a BasicsCard, which is income management.’

I, and my colleagues more particularly, have been very concerned to ensure that everybody gets an opportunity to do training. To give an example: so far this year, all of the communities, with the exception of Aurukun, have had justice of the peace training—not only for my commissioners but for any associated people. The justice and I have met the costs of getting people there, so it is easier to do six or eight people than three people. A mediation training program for all of my commissioners is commencing next week in Hope Vale and we have invited other people from the community, so we have a total of 15 people. They will be trained by mediation trainers from the justice department in Brisbane and they will be trained to mediate matters in Indigenous communities with Indigenous communities in mind. A similar training program for about the same number of people will take place in Coen commencing on 31 May and in August we will do Aurukun. Aurukun would have been done earlier but, because of some training difficulties in Brisbane, they were not able to supply the trainers.

It was my plan that, by the end of June, all my commissioners would have gone through a training program of mediation, be basically approved mediators and would have done their JP course. In July we will have them down to Cairns for a review of process. We will get them all together and they will have an opportunity to do an upskill in computer training. It is my intention to ensure that, as part of the process of my commission, they—together with associated people—will have the opportunity to be trained in areas where they see the need for training. We asked them, ‘What do you really want to do?’ and they said: ‘We want skills in mediation. We would like to run our own JP courts. Let’s get those things done. We would like some computer training.’ It was our plan to have that completed by 30 June.

In addition to that, I keep applying for some funding for my commissioners and if it gets approved I intend to try and encourage a number of them to do some advocacy training, which is specially designed by JCU for assertive advocacy, and any other programs that we can fit in while they still do their jobs. Most of these commissioners are full- or part-time employees and have been for some time. Most of them have, at times, been indirectly related to the justice groups in the areas, which rise and fall with time. For instance, I have seven commissioners in Aurukun and the cost of getting someone up there was about $20,000, I think, to do the training. I arranged for several members of the justice group to join that, as well as several other members of the community who the community put up as being people who were developing some skill or had some obligation, such as a family or clan obligation, to mediate. Hopefully, out of that, we will end up with, say, 15 people trained, as we will hopefully also end up with out of Hope Vale at the end of next week.

CHAIR —You make some attempt to pay attention to clan and moiety connections?

Mr Glasgow —Absolutely, but not to the point of absurdity. I was reminded very early in the piece that Aurukun is a place where people like to live. That is the place they choose. One of my commissioners, when I must have shown some sort of vague concern about why someone would live there, took me to where she was going to be buried and said: ‘This is where I am going to be buried. This is where I intend to be buried. This is my place.’ So it became very clear to me early in the piece that people choose to live there and want to continue to live there and that it is their town. When we went there initially, we talked to a number of people who were fairly vocal. As you know, not everyone supports Noel Pearson and not everyone supports some form of intervention. I was told by some vocal members of the justice group that there were five clans in Aurukun, that I would have to have 10 commissioners—two from each clan—and that no-one would sit on any other clan. I asked, ‘Is that what you say?’ They said, ‘Yes, this is what the justice group says.’ A number of people were very silent. They were people who I had some idea were influential but who said nothing.

I said, ‘Let’s see the nominations.’ I got seven nominations, all from Aurukun. We advertised and only seven people nominated. Out of those seven, six were selected and the other was put on a waiting list. Only one of those commissioners has dropped out, due to family pressure and other reasons. I have never had a situation where someone has said: ‘I don’t want her to sit. She’—or he—‘is not in my clan.’ In fairness, I have to say we were not necessarily well received in each of the communities when we went to them. I do not think full preparation was made for what we were going to do. I do not think people fully understood that. I went out to try and do a little bit of education but in the end I said to my commissioners in each community, ‘We’re going to rise and fall about how we work, how we conduct ourselves.’ As Jim would know, in Hope Vale we had some real reluctance and we were flat out getting 50 per cent attending our conferences.

Mr LAMING —Fifty per cent of—

Mr Glasgow —Of the notifications, the people we served.

Mr LAMING —Turning up?

Mr Glasgow —Yes. By the end of the first year, we were getting about 60 per cent. At the end of 18 months we are at 94 per cent.

Mr LAMING —Can I ask about your interface with the police. If someone commits an offence, such as a violent offence, do they come through the commission or are they directly detained and given a court date?

Mr Glasgow —We are post the conviction of either the Magistrates Court or the District Court, and we do not deal with the Children’s Court. We do not deal with anyone under 17 years of age. Let us say a young fellow who is 18 has assaulted someone seriously and the matter has been dealt with in the Magistrates Court—because of the jurisdiction it is not higher. Once that person has been dealt with and a penalty has been imposed, we will get a notification from the Magistrates Court that young Mark Jungkapata has been dealt with for an assault occasioning bodily harm and has been put on probation. When we bring Mark in, we will ask his family if he wants to come in and we will get a copy of the probation order to see if probation have ordered any programs to be delivered. In most of these communities—until recently, until we funded some of them—there were very few programs delivered. Then we would get them in and discuss what should happen with Mark in that probation period or the period to see that he did not reoffend. It may be referring him to the Wellbeing Centre for some counselling. There may be some group processes involved.

Mr LAMING —I have two questions. That is an automatic quarantining of income?

Mr Glasgow —No. There is no automatic quarantining.

Mr LAMING —Even if they are convicted of an offence?

Mr Glasgow —Even if they are convicted.

Mr LAMING —What if they do not want to turn up? Will you make a decision in their absence?

Mr Glasgow —Only if they have had a second chance. We adopted a process. We had to be very certain that the people received the notices, so all our notices were served by our coordinators. There were always possibilities that someone would not get up in time or did not bother to come, so we always gave them a second chance. If someone did not turn up twice—if that young fella did not turn up twice—I would say to my commissioners: ‘Here we are. He hasn’t turned up twice. What do you want to do? We can income manage him. But what is his family? Is there something there that has not got him in? Is there someone we can bring in with him? Should we get his uncle in or should we get somebody else in?’

There was never an intention to slam on the brakes at that stage, although there were many people who told us—and I will not use the language here—what we could do with the notice. When they did that a second time we would say, ‘Have a BasicsCard with our compliments.’ That would happen and then generally they would come in and ask, without the language, ‘Why have I got a BasicsCard?’ We would say, ‘Well, that’s the way it is and if you want to get your money back these are the programs we think you need to do.’ Many people walked out, but eventually they came back because they wanted to do that. Some did not, but most people complied eventually and did a program.

Mr LAMING —We have limited time, so I will ask just a few questions pretty quickly. How many of them are going through the process and then coming out of quarantine? Do you have any figures?

Mr Glasgow —Tammy will be able to give you some.

Ms Sovenyhazi —There have been 253 income management orders made to date. In the last quarter, so from 1 January to 31 March, we made 47 income management orders. It depends upon the needs or the wants of the commissioners. They really do determine based on the individual’s circumstances whether they will income manage or give them another chance. But there are 253 to date and 137 are on the books at the moment as being income managed.

Mr LAMING —Meaning that the other 116 have gone through and—

Ms Sovenyhazi —They have either had their CIM orders revoked, the time has expired or—

Mr LAMING —What are the typical times?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Twelve months.

Mr Glasgow —But we do not leave them open ended. For instance, if this young man we are talking about failed to turn up and we never saw him, we would give him an opportunity for a review. We would instigate a review in six months and give him a notice to tell him to come in. What is the point of letting someone be income managed for 12 months, which is the maximum, and at the end of the 12 months give him his money back without him having done anything to sort of cope with it?

The other thing is that there was only an appeal in our system on questions of law. If you know the communities, you would know the chances of coming up with a legal question when you are dealing with someone like me—and I am pedantic about how I do things—and getting a lawyer there and achieving with that. We were conditionally income managing people mainly because they did not turn up. I wanted them there, so I looked at the act and saw that there was a process by which the commissioners could review their decisions. I allowed the person to come along and ask if I would review the decision. They would come in and we could ask them why and get them onto some sort of program.

We were trying to change people’s attitude and approach to their behaviour rather than just take their money off them and leave them sinking. So we instituted those processes. So to answer part of your question, a lot of the people who were CIMed initially eventually came off basically at our instigation—we said: ‘Come back and start thinking about things. Go and do this program then come back and let us know how it has gone and see if you want your money back.’

Mr LAMING —This question is a bit hypothetical. If you could not fly out to a community to do a commission hearing and it was left completely to local people, what are the odds that it would just be performed without you being there?

Mr Glasgow —I am smiling because I have been asking the state government to amend my act so that can happen. We have a review process going. I am so confident that these commissioners could handle these things alone. You talk about communication. I will give you an example. In fact, in Hope Vale yesterday we had a lady ring in who was stuck in Cairns. She wanted a CIM review. We said, ‘Let’s do it by telephone.’ We sorted it out then and there. We use every bit of technology we can. If I am stuck somewhere, I will do it by phone.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Under the act at the moment Commissioner Glasgow has to be present at all of the conferences; however, if he gets stuck, we would have him attend by phone instead of cancelling the conferences altogether.

Mr LAMING —Do you have a highly resistant rump of highly refractory people who are simply not going to abide by the commission? You have quarantined their income and they have a BasicsCard but they just still do not care. Do you have the number of people who are simply not playing at all?

Mr Glasgow —I can probably guess that there are about 20 of the 147. We do not leave them alone. We keep asking them to come in and have a talk.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Quite often they do not do anything because they are happy with the income management. They are saving money and they are purchasing goods.

Mr LAMING —Yes, but their kids are not coming to school.

Mr Glasgow —No. If kids are not coming to school, whether you are income managed or not I bring you in probably several times every term. Of course so many of them are trying. I will give you an example. From the experience that many of you have in Indigenous communities you know that most of the carers are not the parents. They might be somebody who has brought up the child from birth but is actually a cousin, auntie or grandparent. We may have a really irascible kid at 14 who will not go to school. Grandma is looking after him but she has two other kids who go to school every day. You do not income manage grandma, but you try to get grandma in regularly to ask, ‘What can we do about the 14-year-old?’ There is a bit of that.

There are some who are income managed and will not come near us. There are two people in Aurukun who will not. But their situation has developed where other agencies are involved, like Child Safety, in a direct fashion.

Mr LAMING —So is it a fair assessment to say that 75 per cent of your regular non-attenders are children over the age of 10 who are making an independent decision not to go to school regardless of what their grandma or parents say?

Mr Glasgow —I did a bit of a survey; I can tell you this. I do not want to be only on Aurukun—

Mr LAMING —The numbers are still very large. I say this in the historical context that Queensland Education have been perennial apologists for not turning up to school. They are also the agency that most threatened this whole commission getting started in the first place by refusing to release data on kids attending school. There is a real problem with a department that has always been very, very slow to commit to school attendance—I take it very seriously. So if we still have these large numbers, the question is: you guys are handling it exceptionally well, but what is the next step if we are finally going to crack this three-decade notion that you do not have to do anything if you do not want to?

Mr Glasgow —I think it is a partnership. First of all we have to get attractive schooling.

Mr LAMING —That is very important, and the point is that if you do not really care about people turning up to school then you do not care about modifying education to make it more Indigenously appropriate. It is only until you really care about kids attending that you will make the modifications that need to happen to keep 12-year-olds in school.

Mr Glasgow —I have sympathy with some of your views about the state education department but it is not all their fault. There are many people in the community who are raising children as the carer of last resort—mum and dad have gone and grandma, who is ill, is doing her level best. There are a number of people who are yet to be convinced that education is the future because they have been educated and have not got a job. There is a lot of that as well. The other issue is that we are often told, as you probably do anywhere, ‘Well, in my day if I didn’t go to school I got a hiding but now you’ve changed the law, you white buggers, so if I give my kid a hiding I go to jail.’ So it is: ‘Look at the discipline I had to go to school.’ We have to deal with that as well. More importantly, I think we have to say to young people that there is a life away, and that has some cultural difficulties. For instance, there are many people who want their children to stay in Aurukun after they finish school because that is their family. I try to explain to them that I have five kids: three are living in London, all have done university degrees, one is going back to Paris and the other lives in Townsville, but we probably talk to each other more regularly using today’s internet and everything else than we use to. I explained that to one of the councillors, and he said, ‘But I want my kids around me.’ This is part of the process. There is a concept that we really should create jobs in the community so people have some reason to be there. We all know that is practically impossible in many instances—you can have only so many teachers, lawyers, doctors, mechanics and carpenters—but the reality is that all those are combined and everyone has an excuse. My attitude when I see a parent is: I do not want to hear your excuses; the law is that your child goes to school. Is there bullying? Let us fix it. If there is no food in the house, let us sort that. If you sleep in, get up earlier. But the law is that you get them to school. If you start debating the reason that kids should not go to school you lose the argument.

To answer your question about how you deal with the 13- and 14-year-olds: it is difficult if they do not have the skills. If you talk to teachers you will find that if by grade 5 at school there isn’t basic literacy and numeracy you have pretty well lost the kid. How do you get that child to a point where they can go to a boarding school? Those are issues for educationalists, not for me, but they are in every community. The other thing about the education system: I can tell you that Hope Vale primary school and Coen primary school have a better attendance rate than most Cairns schools. There is close to 90 per cent attendance in Hope Vale and there is 94 per cent in Coen, so let us not flog the Aboriginal communities—those parents are sending their kids to school. Hope Vale has a pretty lousy percentage for kids going to high school. When I looked at the figures I saw that when they go from the Hope Vale school to the Cooktown school in grade 8 there are pretty good attendance levels but when they go to grade 9 it is about one-third. That is about the time when things are changing in boys’ and girls’ lives and there is also criticism in class about people’s capacity to keep up and about their literacy and numeracy skills. One wonders whether the skill levels of the kids coming to boarding school are up to it. That is an educational issue, and I am a bit defensive about it because my role is simply to get the kids to school. But you cannot just say, ‘That’s it,’ because along the way we see all the little problems.

CHAIR —Year 9 is rotten for all kids.

Mr Glasgow —Yes.

CHAIR —There was a play written once called Year Nine Are Animals.

Mr Glasgow —I have a son in year 9 who I think took a long time to sort that out. I am not criticising the parents so much, but they and the carers do have greater obstacles when they live in those places than perhaps people do in Cairns. They have perhaps more justification, but I do not accept any justification because the law says you have to send your kids to school. I would like to have some input into standards of education, but that is the education department’s role. I would certainly like to make sure that there is more food in the house. But our obligations are to get the kids to school, get them educated, and, if we can, along the way have them loved by their families so that they are nurtured into getting some decent education, and eventually that community will build upon it.

We need to tell parents that it is not proper to have pornography in the house. It is not proper to watch Sky channel till four o’clock in the morning. ‘If you want to get up at 12 o’clock, I do not find that acceptable. The kid needs to go to school; you change your lifestyle.’ We talk as frankly as that. I know that my commissioners in various places do, even when I do not fully understand the language, because I hear them saying, ‘The future of our community is the education of our children.’ They do not leave it there. To come back to some of the things that are part of your juvenile justice program here, these commissioners start to look at those children who are offending and the reasons for them offending and try to get them some assistance.

CHAIR —I did ask you a question about bureaucracy, which I think you are deftly avoiding. I also want to ask you about the diversion programs that exist for young people who have been convicted. I think you said there were virtually none available before your program began but that there are now. If so, do you find them important?

Mr Glasgow —The only diversion programs that exist in any of these communities, apart from the correctional diversion detention centre at Cleveland in Townsville, are part of the cultural and sporting activities on the communities. There is really no program. Having said that, I have to say that the AFL and rugby league are in these communities doing a wonderful amount of work. They send people up there. They run programs after school. They come up to do training. It is a matter of getting people to coordinate those things. There is work for girls as well. Other organisations will do that.

But let us be practical. If we have a 16-year-old kid who is illiterate and innumerate and has no chance of going to boarding school, there is no program except the STEPS program to try and involve them in partly school and partly employment activities. In these communities, most of those employment activities are limited. They are associated with doing some work in the shop, in the council, at the day-care centre or in the hospital. There are not a lot of work related activities in Aurukun, whereas in Hope Vale there are an enormous number because you can involve the properties around them—and they do—and you can involve the businesses in Cooktown. It is really about having those people on site. They are on site to some extent in Hope Vale. They are not on site in Aurukun as yet, but there are plans to do some development this year.

Mr TURNOUR —You have talked pretty eloquently about a range of different issues. There has been a lot of focus on income management. That has been a central issue. You described how it is part of a broader community issue and that the schools have an important part to play in that. Can you talk a bit more about the importance of the wellbeing centres and the school attendance officers that are employed through the institute or in partnerships. What is the importance of them to the success, or not, of the program?

Mr Glasgow —On the school attendance business, we have a number of case managers who are not directly related to the school so there is a buffer between the irate or indifferent parent and the teacher. In each of these communities there are people who go out. If your children do not turn up today, they will be around to your house and they will knock on the door, wake you up—that happens in Aurukun; people do sleep in—get the kids and get them to school. Those percentages are fairly firm. You have to have your child there by 8.30. If you turn up at nine o’clock, you are late and you are marked late. It is not only getting them to school but also getting them to school on time. Those case managers are very important in those communities and without them there is no interface except a direct relationship between the parent and the headmaster or the parent and the teacher. That has helped considerably. That only started in Aurukun effectively in 2009. I think that is why school attendance through the year was greater than what I expected it to be. Coming close to 70 per cent at the end of the year was excellent.

CHAIR —Interestingly, we have not yet specifically discussed rates of imprisonment. Are you yet in a position to be able to comment on the consequences of your program for those sorts of statistics?

Mr Glasgow —In juvenile areas I do not have any detail at all because I do not do that. What is happening with the adults? I do not have any rates of imprisonment but I could arrange for you to get them from corrections. They are probably the best source. What I found very frustrating when I went to those communities was that essentially the imprisonment related to two categories. There are people who consistently drive unlicensed, disqualified or drunk. Traffic matters, like everywhere else, eventually lead to some form of imprisonment. Then there are the violence related issues which are generally related to family, neighbourhood or domestic disputes, which can fluctuate. Bear in mind that we only deal with the Magistrates Court matters; we do not deal with the ones where people have gone to gaol for very serious offences like grievous bodily harm, attempted murder or rape or those issues, although we have dealt with some of those people because of associated matters. If a person goes to prison for three months for a domestic violence matter then the reality in Queensland prisons is that no programs are given if they come back because of the time frame and the whole consequential costs system. There were people coming out of prison who had been to prison several times for domestic related matters. I was very frustrated that there were no programs for those people.

Those programs have been put on site now. We finally got the funding for that on 22 February and the first program happened within two or three weeks of that. We had six people through the program and we had another six the week before in Hope Vale, two of which did not finish. So we had ten go through it in Hope Vale. These are programs were people sit down in groups and go through a three-day program on ending family violence. That has been one of the issues. It needed to be spurred on in various places, but they were being developed through Queensland corrections and delivered in the communities. The commission is funding those programs. The number of people who have gone to prison from the lists that I can remember in the last few years has declined in all communities. But I think you need to get the accurate statistics about that. It may simply be because we are putting on these diversion programs. I relate fairly easily with the magistrates because they are my former colleagues and I tell them that these programs are available and try to get them to impose them as well. So there is good cooperation between us in relation to the adult offenders.

The juvenile offenders end up going down to Cleveland Detention Centre in Townsville. I know that centre very well. I used to spend at lot of time out there because I was a Children’s Court magistrate. It is a very good centre. It is very well funded and it has lots of programs for the kids. The difficulty there is that the young people are there for only a short time—generally it is three months or less—and it is very difficult to get a program through there. For juveniles in Hope Vale there are no specific programs but there are a lot of visits by juvenile officers. Does that answer all your questions?

Mr TURNOUR —Wellbeing centres are a significant investment as part of the overall welfare reform program. Have they been important in terms of the referral mechanism, and how are they running?

Mr Glasgow —We commenced our operation on 1 July. We started with an office—Tammy and I were the only employees in June—and we determined our priorities to commence sitting because, from 1 July 2008, we received notices. We started sitting in August—13 August was our first sitting—so we really got off the mark quickly, and we have not stopped sitting since, except for breaks over school holidays and a little bit of a break over Christmas. When I was originally given this job I was told the wellbeing centres would be on board. But they never really came on board until the second half of 2009. The buildings were not really finished until April 2009, they were not really properly manned until July 2009 and they have really only been functioning at an acceptable level since about the last quarter last year.

Since then they have been really on the ball. They had lots of problems with staff turnover and selection of staff and people living in road communities and all of those issues. We work fairly well with them on the ground. For instance, if we are referring someone to a counselling session for relationships, because the wellbeing centres are immediately adjacent to us and three of the communities, as we finish we sign people up and take them across and introduce them, and they will make their programs and go on from there. Aurukun is about one kilometre away and it is very difficult, but usually people go up there and self-refer straightaway. We only learnt at the beginning of this year that they did not have a standard program for anger management and ending family violence. It was all one-to-one counselling. We took the view that there should be a standard program. We had full cooperation from them. Corrections had that program, which was acceptable to everyone. We funded Corrections from 22 February and they promised to deliver that program once a week in Aurukun and Hope Vale and in the other two communities as necessary, and they have kept that up.

So, to answer your question, the wellbeing centres are working quite well in relation to the consultation process. But it is one-on-one counselling on every matter and we are referring huge numbers of people there. So their capacity to deal with people is an issue, as is their engagement process in dealing with people who have never gone to that sort of consultation before. It is about getting them to return, so we have been a little bit over the top in allowing people time to comply with agreements because they need to be convinced to go back. We have now got the funding and the staff to implement a case management process. So what we are going to do is look at the people on a case study basis—those who have been to the wellbeing centre—and at how they fared and how they felt about it. We often do that if people come back to us. We say: ‘How’ve you been going? I see you’ve been to them several times. How’re you feeling? How is it working out?’ They are having an impact, but to be fair to them—and I am not being critical of them—they have effectively only been operating for two quarters.

Mr TURNOUR —There has been a fairly broad debate over the last 12 to 18 months about income management and welfare quarantining. We have seen a blanket approach to that in the Northern Territory since the intervention, and we are probably just taking a different model into Cape York. In terms of your experience, I suppose it comes down to getting outcomes and changing community norms—having an ability to work with people and having wraparound services, even though they might not have been functioning, is quite important terms of bringing about change. I am not trying to put words in your mouth, but if we want to make big changes in terms of Closing the Gap, in community norms and whatnot, how important is it to be able to engage and work with people to drive that change rather than taking a simple welfare quarantining approach to achieving outcomes?

Mr Glasgow —That is the issue, isn’t it? I really do not feel I should have any view on policy. I was given a policy in the implementation of this process which had as a weapon of management conditional income management. We used it sparingly. We only have to use it sparingly. We have used it when people did not recognise us as they would most court systems, and in the main we have found we have only had to use it when people have told us exactly where to go or have refused to comply with what they have signed. I think that is the way to go with this process, because it is shown by the number of people who turn up—and it is about in the high 90s in every community now—that they are respecting the decisions of the people who are making the decisions. I am only one of three and I am always encouraging people to say, ‘Talk to your colleagues.’ So I think the strength of this is that people are recognising, even though they may not like Commissioner Woolla or Commissioner Gibson, it is one of them making a decision, and they do it in a fairly firm but fairly easy way.

We get people to sign agreements and we only direct them to do things when they effectively tell us to go jump in a lake. That does not happen often, though I have to say quite a lot of the people come in quite angry. ‘Why am I being doubly personalised? Why am I doing this? It’s her role to send the kids to school. Grandma gets the money. It’s her problem.’ When we explain to them it is a family problem, we eventually get an agreement, in most cases.

So I think that process needs to be evaluated in comparison with that of someone who has unilaterally lost their money and then comes to get it back. I don’t think I should have an opinion on it, because I am simply running a project where someone is going to do that. I think this wing is working because I see advantages. I think it has some areas which can be reviewed and improved, and we are putting that to government now in this review that is taking place.

But at the end of the day it is the strength of the people who sit with me—the Indigenous people, my colleagues who live in the community and have to wear the decision when I leave. They live in houses next to these people. They are the ones who get their rocks on their roofs; they are the ones who get threatened. But they are strong enough to stand up, and I think that respect that they have built up in the community is one of the reasons why people keep turning up—and the fact that we make fair decisions.

On the other hand, there are a number of people who do not like our decisions and are quite happy to live with the BasicsCard. Eventually, they will want to do something and some of them—it is interesting—will come along to me and say: ‘How do I get all this money out of the BasicsCard? I’ve got $1,000 on it and all I can do is buy food.’ They have never used it. I say: ‘Well, you buy food. Use your brains. If you want to change the system, come back to me, do what the commissioners ask you to do and we can arrange for that money to be converted to cash and go back into your keycard.’

Mr LAMING —Just confirming—it is 50 per cent of your BasicsCard, or 100?

Mr Glasgow —It is 50 per cent in the Northern Territory. I take 75 per cent or 60 per cent. They are the two choices I was given and, in the main, it is 75 per cent for 12 months.

Mr LAMING —The question is: for highly resistant cases, what would you think about stepping it from 75 to 80, to 85, to 90 as they become—

Mr Glasgow —No, I don’t think so. I think people need cash. If someone gets the BasicsCard and he decides, ‘Stuff everybody—I’m going to live in Cairns,’ he needs money to get something to eat. He needs some money to get a taxi to go to Centrelink to argue about something. Our society has to work on some cash. So about 25 per cent, in my view, would be the minimum I would take.

CHAIR —I will go back to the blunter issues of crime and imprisonment. I took you to be saying that the overwhelming majority of offending is in two categories in these towns, as in most others that are remote. One involves violence, often enough in the family. The other, you said, is around motor traffic offences. In every remote place we have been, we have heard a similar kind of account. There are a lot of people ending up in jail because they have got on a pathway that they do not know how to depart from, with an accumulation of traffic offences. This seems to be an absurd thing and we would like to be able to make some recommendations of a general nature about the ways in which we could overcome that kind of gratuitous imprisonment.

Mr Glasgow —I am sure many of my colleagues on the bench would agree with you wholeheartedly. Now that I am not a magistrate I can say that one of the issues that used to frustrate the hell out of me was going to an Aboriginal community and trying to teach young people how to drive and get a licence. If you look at Palm Island, it has got some reasonable roads. There are about five of them. But where do Palm Island residents get up the 100 hours of driving necessary to qualify for a licence? If you get a learners licence you now have to do 100 hours of driving with a qualified driver who has been driving for more than 12 months, so he has to be on an open licence. In Aurukun, if you want to teach your kid to drive, where do you drive? The roads have just now become open. You have to do 100 hours in 12 months. It is very difficult for a young person to get a licence in these communities. Look at Lockhart River. It has got one big road to the airport and a few little streets around. How does someone do 100 hours to get a licence?

If you drive without a licence, the punishment for a first offence is a monetary one and the second one is a mandatory one-month imprisonment. The next one is six months mandatory imprisonment and the next one is two years. Now they are all cumulative. It is something which, Chair, you could address in your program. My view is you get people licensed when they are capable and able to do it in these communities and you do not put them on a treadmill.

CHAIR —In conclusion, first of all I invite you to look at the transcript on this committee’s website of what was said by the Chief Justice of Western Australia and a number of other judges. His commentary was almost identical to your own, only the geography was different. I can ask you now, not as Commissioner of the Family Responsibilities Commission but as a retired magistrate: what ideas do you have about a change in the law that might be possible?

Mr Glasgow —There used to be, for instance, in Queensland an absolute disqualification, which meant you lost your licence absolutely. It no longer happens. It is now a maximum of five years, with some additions for higher courts. But there are still people out there who have an absolute disqualification. The magistrates made submissions to the transport department, once they were going to change that, to simply say, ‘In five years from now every one of those absolute disqualifications will cease.’ That did not happen. So you can have somebody who has not driven for a long time who has an emergency, drives and gets caught. Even though he may not have driven for 10 years, he has got to get two years disqualification.

The magistrates were trying to get those absolute disqualifications removed, because you had a right after two years to apply for your licence back. But many Indigenous people in particular were itinerant and they may have been told about it by their lawyers but never got around to doing it. There are a whole lot of issues. That is part of the problem in the communities now. When people get cumulative periods of one and two years adding up, they find it very difficult to know when their licence is due and then they have to wait on the phone on a 1300 number to try and find out. In the end they give up.

There needs to be a review of that process. Realistically I have to say that, when I was a magistrate sitting in Lockhart River, the penalties and disqualifications I gave for drink driving were a lot less than they would have been if I had been in Cairns, because I used to think, ‘How many roads have they got to drive on?’ You have to be realistic in some areas and I think some of my colleagues were. The solution is beyond me. I think you have to convince state transport authorities and they seem to have a very definite—

CHAIR —They are universally recalcitrant about this matter, I know. I am getting a little concerned about the time. We are holding up our next witnesses and probably messing up the day a bit—

Mr LAMING —I do have one quick one before we finish.

CHAIR —but I am used to my colleagues always asking for one more question! May I, in anticipation, thank you both for the evidence you have given to us, which has been most enlightening. We are very grateful. As usual, I will leave Mr Laming with the last question.

Mr LAMING —To provide disclosure: I support income management Australia wide and I think that this is an important model for the entire country, so I am not talking about Indigenous solutions here. I am, however, interested in the great work you are doing in the commission and this possibility. If you guys are dealing with 100 per cent Indigenous issues before the commission, why do you not replace our court system and actually deal with all non-violent cases—that is, cases other than rape and murder—and do the whole lot? Isn’t the commissioner model to replace our court system completely? That is a 30-second—

Mr Glasgow —I think it could be complementary. I do not think you could replace the court system because our system of justice requires representation and the right to defend. Our commission works on the basis that people have come in because they have done something, or they have failed to do something, and they have accepted that and it is not a debatable issue. By then, you have an acknowledgement that maybe they need some help and you can refer them onwards. I think they could go together. For instance, I keep advising my colleagues on the bench that the Wellbeing Centres exist, that they take volunteers and that they will take all sorts of counselling. I do that to try and get them to do some counselling and referrals to those bodies.

Mr LAMING —That is the struggle. Until there is some competition and competitive tension, I doubt whether it will happen in the short term. The second issue is: we are also finding it really hard to turn jails into places that you leave as a better person than you were when you went in. You normally leave more damaged rather than less. Should we be doing mini detention centres closer? Should we be looking at detention facilities that are smaller and closer to communities, where families can have contact? Then these people who are going to end up rotting in jails are actually closer to home and able to participate in meaningful activity closer to home?

Mr Glasgow —I have a particular view that you should spend the time and effort with the first offenders and not the recidivists. It goes against the whole idea of rehabilitation that I used to sentence someone for three months because I had to—there was no other alternative—and I knew he got nothing. I knew he would get no counselling or program in jail. That seems to me to be the reverse of how it should be. You only really get those sorts of programs if you are serving more than 12 months in prison. That will be the case unless society changes that.

I will finish up with this, because I could talk a long time—and do, unfortunately! When this act was passed, it was passed to me as a completed entity and my first concern was, ‘Why aren’t we dealing with the first domestic violence order?’ I always believed, on the bench, that you should deal with the first domestic violence order, that you should get those into counselling straightaway. It related to a decision that was made before me. I always believed that you should deal with the youth and deal with them as wisely and quickly as you can. If you can divert them into activities and, particularly with young Indigenous people, get them proud of their culture, they will be less likely to be involved in the system. But society has to sort out the overcrowding in Aurukun, the lack of employment opportunities in Hope Vale and all of those issues which are endemic throughout all society.

Our little bit has to be done on the basis of saying to these kids: ‘You get educated and you can go anywhere, young man. You can go anywhere in this country. You can become a teacher and come back and teach the kids in Aurukun. You can become a dentist and come back and do the dental work in Hope Vale.’ Those are the sorts of things we should tell them. We need to keep those objects available. These kids are skilled. They are not inept and they are not incompetent. They just need good education and the opportunity to go forward. I think that is what all these grandmothers and older people who are looking after kids in our communities want to happen. I thank you for your time.

CHAIR —Thank you again.

[12.22 pm]