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Effectiveness of state, territory and Commonwealth government policies on regional and remote Indigenous communities

CHAIR —Welcome. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has previously been provided to you. I now invite you to make a short opening statement. After that I will ask the committee if they have questions.

Mr Bird —First, thank you for the opportunity to come here and address the committee about what we are doing throughout the whole of Queensland—not just in Cape York—through the Indigenous Business Unit. My background is that I am a senior sergeant attached to the Queensland Police Service. My role is to work with the Queensland Police Citizens Youth Welfare Association as a manager of their Indigenous Business Unit.

I have a small presentation in respect of what we do and how we do it that may be able to support the committee in its knowledge of the work that we are doing up there. I will just go through what the Queensland Police Citizens Youth Welfare Association is and how it supports mainly the youth but also members of the Queensland public overall through its activities across Queensland, especially from the Indigenous Business Unit’s perspective.

The Queensland Police-Citizens Youth Welfare Association commenced in May 1948 at Lang Park in Brisbane. It was an acknowledgement of the problems that were faced in Brisbane. We now have 47 what we call ‘PCYCs’. You will hear me use ‘PCYC’ as short for QPCYWA. It makes it a little bit easier if we do it that way! We still use the objectives that were set in 1948 because they are still relevant right across Queensland. We have over 80,000 members, over 1,200 employees and 1,000 volunteers across Queensland. We are the biggest youth development organisation in Queensland. Our management systems and governance have been tried and tested throughout that period of time.

The mission statement for PCYC is: in partnership with government, community, business and families, to achieve excellence in youth development by encouraging participating in recreational, sporting, cultural and welfare programs. Like I said, we do not focus just on youth; our main objective is to support youth in Queensland. A lot of our centres do a lot of activities beyond the youth area. The vision for PCYC is: enhancing Queensland communities through youth development. That is where we focus most of our energy.

To see how the Indigenous side came into PCYC I would like to give you a bit of a history of how PCYC ventured outside its metropolitan boundaries and into the Indigenous area. Back in 1996, we identified that there was major problem with youth suicide and juvenile crime within Yarrabah. We then went into Yarrabah and worked with different organisations in Yarrabah, specially the council, and we started the first PCYC in Yarrabah in 1996. We proved to the council and the community over a three-year period that, through Commonwealth funding, we could start a PCYC centre there.

From 1999, after signing a lease agreement with the council to 2004, we ran it as a centre. Then in 2004 we made it into what we class as an Indigenous PCYC. The commissioner offered us a sergeant and two police liaison officers. Through the success of Yarrabah, which won national and state awards for its excellence of work, we progressed—with the support of the state minister of the day—to do feasibility studies and needs analysis at Palm Island and Mornington Island. That is now history. We now have PCYCs at both Mornington and Palm islands. Just recently the Mornington Island has also won national and state awards for its performance. We are continuing to support Palm Island in its endeavours to achieve those outcomes as well.

Back in 2004, we found that there were other Indigenous locations where, because of their size and location, we could not see the state government giving us a sergeant and two police liaison officers—for 290 or 300 people at Wujal Wujal, 500 people at Pormpuraaw or at other locations. So we developed a program called the CAPE program. CAPE stands for Community Activity Programs through Education—not Cape York; it was just tested in Cape York. We trialled it at Wujal and within its first six months of operation we reduced juvenile crime by 67 per cent there—just by reducing their boredom and ensuring we had sustainability of activities that were constant. So we then developed a larger model and went to Hope Vale. We now have a Hope Vale centre which employs seven local staff and is managed by a local person who we trained up to manage that location. We then moved to Napranum, where we have a similar program.

Through the achievements of those locations we were then given funding to roll out the program to four separate locations, one being the Northern Peninsula Area, called NPA, which covers five communities, three Indigenous and two Islander communities, and the other ones being Aurukun, Kowanyama and Woorabinda. We started off in Woorabinda and worked with NPA, and now we are negotiating with councils to start the operation both in Aurukun and Kowanyama. There has been a delay at Kowanyama because we have been waiting for the centre to be finalised and finished in that location. Until that happens we have just been running activities in these locations. We have resources and staff in there but we are not running the full program in those locations until we can have operating centres there.

You can see that we identified the larger communities and the more isolated ones, namely islands and the greater population, Palm Island being similar to Yarrabah—about 3½ thousand. Then we identified that other communities should have a similar PCYC but on a different scale, and we addressed that. Also, just recently, we have been given the opportunity to manage 35 sport and rec officers throughout the whole of Queensland. There used to be 60 sport and rec officers and now there are 35. The funding used to go to Indigenous communities, community groups or the councils, but it now goes to us to manage those sport and rec officers. With regard to the IBU—Indigenous Business Unit—we manage 42 different locations, and we have 150 grants to support that. It is all grant funded; there is no flexible funding. The grants come from all different levels—government, non-government and private sector—and we are continually managing those.

The Indigenous Business Unit as a structure has 12 Queensland police employees. They are made up by me —I am a senior sergeant—three sergeants, located at Yarrabah, Mornington Island and Palm Island, and eight PLOs, police liaison officers. I have two in my office. They support us by assisting us both in training us about Indigenous culture and in allowing us to have greater communication with the community through their contacts. They are essential to our operation in Indigenous communities. They assist us daily in learning how to communicate properly, who to communicate with and what protocols to use. We have two offices, one based here in Cairns—the head office is here in Cairns—and all my staff, except for two, are Indigenous. And we have a Townsville office that supports the Indigenous PCYC—there are three Indigenous PCYCs. We placed the office in Townsville mainly to support Palm Island, which was going through some major issues and we could see that the PCYC could support the community through that.

Every second Tuesday we pay 108 staff throughout Queensland. We have 108 staff on our books that we have to fund to carry out the sport and recreation programs throughout Queensland at 42 different locations. As I have said, we have an operation diversity. We have the Indigenous PCYCs at Mornington, Palm and Yarrabah. We have CAPE, which is at Hope Vale, Napranum, the Northern Peninsula Area, Aurukun, Kowanyama and Woorabinda, and we have 35 sport and rec officers at 34 locations. We have two in Townsville; that is why there are 34 and not 35.

The evolution of the model is to bring larger Indigenous communities into the Indigenous PCYC model. We have found the Indigenous PCYC model with a sergeant and two police liaison officers to be the one that has the greatest productivity. The reason is that, when we employ a staff member from an Indigenous community and we train that person up, government and non-government organisations see that as a good poaching area for employees. We have had people leave and go to the mines because we train our staff up from certificate I to diploma level. Indigenous people coming from communities are sought after by government and non-government organisations. We lose very senior staff to those organisations because they can pay more than we can. That then takes out a crucial element of our operations in that location. We have got to find another person and our operations can suffer for some time until we can progress that person up to that level. It goes through a cyclical system. By having the police sergeant at the other locations, we do not seem to have that happen as much. It does happen, but it does not happen as much. So we see that model as being more productive. It also brings the police closer to the community. It is an open-door approach to policing because they do not see the police officer there as totally reactive; people can be extremely proactive. Mornington Island is a very good example of that through its programs of having police being part of the community and not being totally reactive.

The other major area that we work on continually is building the relationships with councils. Councils are going through a change from being community councils, where they carried out all the functions for the community on behalf of nearly every member of the community. I have been working in this area for over 20 years. I was brought up at Yarrabah, so I know it very well and I have seen the change in councils moving towards the shire council model. They require support from organisations like ours to assist them whilst they are going through this transition, because they are not doing the social work that they have been in the past under their local requirements. We are there to support them so we build that relationship. That can take a lot of time because we have to build a rapport with them. That is something we go through and we expect. But when we do build that rapport, we are there for a long period of time.

One of the barriers that we face is sustainability of grant funding. I do not know if you have heard this previously but, when we are looking at the total volume of grants and we are reporting monthly, quarterly, yearly and so on, it takes a lot of administration to maintain. Also, in a jigsaw puzzle of community needs, there are always going to be some gaps where grants overlap and do not provide for some of the requirements of that community. If you have only got one year of grant funding and it has taken you three months to put that person on by the time you do the HR process of the employing the person, it is very sad when you say to them that you can only employ them for nine months and then it will cease. So you start the training and they fall off the training wheel again. It is very hard under the current grant structure to be sustainable in these locations. We are looking at long-term generational change and that is what we are trying to work on. PCYC has been around for a long time. We want to be in these communities for a long time if we are going to see long-term changes.

In regard to overarching state and Commonwealth legislation, some of the legislation has not been designed, especially in the childcare area, where we are trying to be sustainable by using the ability to generate other income other than grants, for these communities; it is designed for mainstream. The process of having a child go through after-school care, before-school care or vacation care process is totally different culturally in these communities. A lot of times we do not see parents; we see young children carrying babies in disposable nappies down to our centres at eight o’clock at night. There is no way in the world that those people can sign in and sign out their child, because we do not see their parents very often. We try to. We do doorknocks and we have tried on all levels to be able to support the legislation, but it has been impossible to be able to do that. We are now just breaking through that with the assistance of Centrelink. They have come back on board and we thank him for that. The legislation does have a lot of barriers to get through. A lot of the buildings do not come up to legislative standard. We have had to pour a lot of money into bringing some of these buildings up to standard. The Hope Vale building was condemned when we took it over. We have now raised it up to a usable centre—and so on. That is one of the issues that we have. Most of the buildings that we go into and use in these locations in very poor condition.

Regarding the duration of the community acceptance process. Some people can fly in, fly out on. That is not going to achieve a lot of outcomes. You have got to be there and run your program. Our program Napranum is from the breakfast program at 7.30 right through to nine o’clock at night. It has got to be run five days a week—seven days a week if you can afford the penalties on weekends—to be able to achieve the outcomes that you want: to reduce suicide, to reduce crime. They have got to have a place of safety they know that they can go to. They also have to know that the doors are open. You can’t say that you are going to go up there once every three months and do an activity. That is not going to achieve the outcomes that we have achieved.

Some of the improvements, just quickly, that we have seen: pre-PCYC there were 60 Indigenous sport and rec officers part funded. Two identified audits by the minister in 2008 realised that that was not working and now there are 35, and we have filled over 80 per cent of the positions in the short period of time that we have had program. We have a three-year program to December 2011. From all sources I think it is working.

Millions of dollars have been spent on sport and rec facilities. A lot of those buildings are damaged and inoperable, just because they are not being used. Doomadgee is probably a very good example of that. We are working with government now to look at an Indigenous PCYC at Doomadgee. Those buildings have sat there. Mapoon has a very nice building sitting out there. Through lack of use they get vandalised, because there is nobody in there to tell people not to do it. With PCYC, facilities are being maintained, well used, repaired and supported by the Commonwealth and state governments. I have meetings with the ICC on a regular basis here. We identify any funding that we can to support. I have just spent over $200,000-odd on the Napranum building to bring it up to standard.

There was little development of local community members in staff positions before PCYC. We are probably the largest employer in the communities, other than government. We can employ up to 12 staff at any one time in some locations. Some are part-time, some are permanent and some are part-time permanent, depending on the operations that we have in those locations. We ensure that we train and support those employees in the best way that we possibly can. Now we have close to 100 local community members employed in PCYC service delivery roles. Before CAPE was introduced there was a major problem with local people being employed for lengthy periods of time. We now have employment strategies in place to be able to support those people where we have CAPE and Indigenous PCYCs. We have over 100 locals involved from day to day and minute to minute in those locations throughout Indigenous communities.

That gives you a quick overview of the Indigenous Business Unit for the overall PCYC Queensland program. Here in Cairns we have a PCYC which is like a mainstream PCYC. Mareeba has one and so does Innisfail. The Yarrabah one is the Indigenous one within this region. From a policing point of view, we have employees in seven of the eight police regions. We do not have any on the Gold Coast, but we have them in every other location, from Goondiwindi through to Mornington Island, to the tip of Australia. I do not have any at Innisfail or Tully at the present moment, but in Mackay, Bundaberg, Charleville, Dalby, Ipswich and Toowoomba I have Indigenous PCYC employees.

Senator FURNER —You mentioned, out of a list of numerous locations that you represent, Kowanyama.

Mr Bird —Yes.

Senator FURNER —You go as far south as that in your area of representation.

Mr Bird —I go as far south as Logan.

Senator FURNER —That is a huge area to cover.

Mr Bird —Yes. Logan is just between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. We go as far west as Goondiwindi. I will be visiting them next week. I am doing a week’s trip around to support the managers. I will be flying to Brisbane and going out there.

Senator FURNER —We were in Bamaga yesterday and we met Sonia Townson.

Mr Bird —She is my area manager.

Senator FURNER —No doubt she looks after the NPA. Are there any employees under her, covered by the PCYC?

Mr Bird —She has four employees. We have two vacancies there at the present moment. One has resigned and we have not been able to fill the other position through the first round. But it has been advertised again and that will close in a week’s time, I believe.

Senator FURNER —You mentioned the PLAs, or police liaison officers. How many of those do you have?

Mr Bird —We have eight in total. We have two at each Indigenous PCYC—Mornington, Palm Island and Yarrabah—and we have two in my office. When I travel, I normally take one with me to assist me in protocols, even though I have 20 years experience in total. I was the officer in charge of the cross-cultural unit for the far northern region, which has the highest Indigenous police presence within any police region in Queensland. I did that from 1994 to 2004, for 10 years. I still believe that I need a police liaison officer sometimes to support me when I go to council meetings and that sort of thing. That support is crucial.

Senator FURNER —Are those PLAs Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander?

Mr Bird —Yes. The PLAs for Mornington, Palm Island and Yarrabah are from Mornington, Palm Island and Yarrabah. There are two from each location. I have an Aboriginal and a Torres Strait Islander in my office.

Senator FURNER —The NPA News that we picked up when we arrived in Bamaga mentioned the weed-out exercise happening out there, where they are going around identifying issues involving, predominantly, marijuana. Is there interaction between the PCYC and those sorts of projects that happen in the regions?

Mr Bird —I was on the original project team for that project and assisted in developing it. We have a regulator 10 o’clock meeting with the Assistant Commissioner of the Far Northern Region every Monday. Part of that is to talk about police projects and how we can assist in any way proactively supporting them, and one is the Weed it Out project.

Senator FURNER —Do you think that has alleviated issues?

Mr Bird —I think that the educational side of it has, in NPA especially. We have just had the Something Better project, which is a suicide prevention project. It allows us when we go to schools and different activities within the community to be able to pass on that information and educate people about it. I think it will take time before we see any flow-on effect of that in our statistics. Because we get the statistics from the Queensland Police Service when needed, we will be looking to see how that works in the future.

Senator CROSSIN —Do you get involved in youth diversionary programs?

Mr Bird —At our centres between the hours of the breakfast program at nine o’clock and three o’clock, we have youth that under correctional services orders and those sorts of things. We do assist in that way but, other than that, no.

Senator CROSSIN —Would these mainly be teenagers who are in a juvenile centre or—

Mr Bird —No. These are youth who are under an order or under a requirement from court. The justice system has a supervisor with them. They have done activities within our centres. For example, they have done garden beds and different activities around the centre. We assist them in our equipment and services in the centre.

Senator CROSSIN —Is that successful?

Mr Bird —It is successful in that they have a location. I have never focused on what the outcome is in reducing that. We have focused on a lot of youth truancy but not diversion. We have youth truancy programs at all our locations. Some of our youth truancy programs are focused at trying to get kids back to school through positive reinforcement and not giving the kids who are wagging school benefits but giving the kids who attend school the most activities. We have agreements and partnerships with a large number of organisations. Ergon have provided seats at Dairy Farmers, and we identify those youth—the ones who have gone to school the most—from the Cape to go down and watch the football in Townsville. We find that they go back and, through positive peer pressure, have increased the attendance at schools. But with respect to the ones who have already gone through court, we have not had a great deal of focus on those yet, because there are other organisations that do that.

Senator MOORE —It would be useful if we won a few more games. That would help a lot.

Mr Bird —Yes.

Senator CROSSIN —So, predominantly, it is about providing activities for youth in communities. Girls and boys?

—Yes, and not just youth. Our youth in communities is from four to 84 basically. We have what we call CAFS officers—child and family support officers—SED officers, social economic development officers. Some of those officers go to the old people’s home and assist those people in doing activities for health reasons and that sort of thing. We have had so many activities around bringing family back with their youth and doing family nights and those sorts of things. I do not know if Sonia Townson touched on a program that we started up there where the youth go back to the elders and do their yards—trying to bring back culture. There is a big gap between youth and Aboriginal culture. We try to cover that as well. We do focus on youth but, if another organisation wishes to do something with the elderly or we have grant money that focuses on other members of the community, we will do that.

Senator BOYCE —Do you allow other community organisations or voluntary groups to use the PCYC facilities?

Mr Bird —We do. In Napranum we have one room set aside for teachers to assist youth who have been disengaged from the school. Western Cape College has a permanent base. They come in during the week and try to get the students back up to a level. We have a large number of organisations that use the Hope Vale centre. We have been asked to charge them, but we do not.

Senator BOYCE —I am trying to tease out what happens in a community where you do not have the resources to run something. You told us about how your facilities had fallen into disrepair through lack of youth. Why are there no other activities in those facilities in that situation?

Mr Bird —From my experience it is very hard for a community member to say no to another community member. Sometimes it is very hard unless they have a great deal of support behind them to be able to run a lot of activities. We have found that with organisational support behind them their self-esteem increases and they have the ability to then deliver some of the programs that they really want to do. We have community members coming to the PCYC and asking to deliver a program where they have felt that they did not have the confidence or they were worried about some redress that they may get with respect to activities. I will give you an example of that. When we have major sports like football, touch football, basketball or softball, a lot of times we have to bring in paid referees to finalise the games because it is very hard for a community member to live in the community and to be in a position where other people think that they have made the wrong decision during that game. There could be a lot of repercussions for that person. We have to build up their self-esteem and support them through delivering the programs. I am not just talking about us, there are other organisations but unless an organisation is there to support them through the process that they can fall back on I think that they find it very difficult to run those programs.

Senator MOORE —I would like to check some of the figures, because we live on figures in this job. In your opening statement you talked about a reduction of 67 per cent in this activity with corrections. Can we hear a little bit more about how that is assessed?

Mr Bird —At Wujal back in 2003 or 2004 we started the program by sending up a police liaison officer from Cairns for three weeks out of every four weeks to support the community. They had a community centre that sat idle and was not being used. We then started employing staff there. Because Wujal was seen as a highly volatile area, that is why the Queensland police service has put a police station there for 300-odd people, one of the focuses was if we reduced the boredom for not just the children but the adults and we had a lot of adults programs there—we had partnerships with the Bloomfield school and other areas—that crime hopefully would reduce. The front page of the Cairns Post through the release of statistics from the assistant Commissioner of the day, not my statistics, shows that we reduced juvenile crime whilst we were there. We cannot say that we did it all; all we can say is that, for the period 12 months before that versus the 12 months that we were in there and looking at the six months that led up to it, juvenile crime reduced by 67 per cent.

Senator MOORE —That is under 18. That would be graffiti, theft, all those kinds of crimes.

Mr Bird —Assaults.

Senator MOORE —Do you keep records or does anyone keep records about the impact in other places you have gone to? Certainly I would expect one of the expectations of your involvement and your expenditure would be looking at crime figures.

Mr Bird —Yes, it is. Because I am a Queensland Police Service employee and because my managers are Queensland Police Service employees at Indigenous PCYCs, my state manager is not and also my state manager for Indigenous sport and recommendation officers are both Indigenous people are not Queensland police employees. To give you a recent example, Mornington Island did what they call a program over the Christmas period, 10 days at Christmas. During that period of time they had zero indictable offences for juveniles and the magistrate did not have to fly over and do juvenile court at that time.

Senator MOORE —Which is a distinct difference from previous Christmas periods.

Mr Bird —That is exactly right. That is why it won a number of awards. The commissioner’s police gold lantern award was won through that crime prevention initiative not just for that program but for the ongoing programs that Sergeant Dave Ives has carried out over there. So, yes, we are continually looking at how we are performing crime-wise. It is sad to think that I had seen in the paper that Mornington Island was such quite place. I was there two weeks ago doing a branch performance review and I see in our local paper that there were a couple of police assaulted just recently. That is the sort of thing I will be working with the assistant commissioner on to see why that happened and how PCYC can work with the police to try and reduce that.

Senator MOORE —A number of us were on a previous inquiry that went to Mornington Island, and one of the things people at the big community meeting were asking for was programs were kids during school holiday periods. With kids coming back from mainland schools, all kinds of interactions were going on. Your statement is that the PCYC program there has gone a step towards providing that, particularly over the Christmas period.

Mr Bird —Yes, we have, and we are using that model as a better practice model and we are going to roll it out over the near future into our Cape locations.

Senator MOORE —Also in your statement you said that there used to be 60-odd youth workers across the area and now there are 34.

Mr Bird —Thirty-five.

Senator MOORE —I know there is an answer to this, but why is that better?

—What happened was that the state government minister at the time for policing and corrective services, Judy Spence, took up the portfolio and one of her roles was to look at current programs and how they were operating. She did an assessment, did two audits of those 60 positions and found—there must have been a reason in her mind, I do not know what—that she preferred to bring that down from 60 to 35 and that, instead of Aboriginal identified community groups that had been previously funded in separate funding rounds, they not be given that funding and PCYC should operate those funds. That has caused some major problems in Indigenous communities for PCYC. PCYC three years ago was wanted by every Indigenous community. We could not roll out fast enough. We had a 10-year plan to roll out in every community. When the decision was made to take money from the council and give it to PCYC, and it was done by the department of sport and rec in those days and now department of community and sport and rec services, PCYC’s level of acceptance in those communities went to bedrock. I have spent the last 12 months trying to resurrect it.

We are continually trying to get MOUs with councils and they are still saying, ‘You’ve got our money.’ I am very open about that because I spent a lot of time trying to work through that process with councils—that we did not identify the problem; we did not take the money. It was given to us; otherwise the program would cease.

Senator MOORE —So you were caught in the middle?

Mr Bird —Yes, we were. There was no consultation with councils. They were notified one day that it was going to happen and the next day we were advised that we were getting the money.

Senator MOORE —Through that process, which I am sure has been very difficult, have any of the workers who were previously employed been able to translate into jobs that you offered?

Mr Bird —They all were.

Senator MOORE —So people did not lose jobs, as such; it was money and the process of spending the money.

Mr Bird —That was one of the requirements that I put in place when we took it on. People who were already performing in those tasks could transition and we would support them if they needed training.

Senator MOORE —Your problem is more with councils?

Mr Bird —Yes. I can understand the lack of consultation and this non-government organisation coming here and telling us what to do.

Senator MOORE —When was that decision made?

Mr Bird —It was made in February 2008. We received the money in December 2008 to start in January 2009.

Senator MOORE —So there was a 12-month period without funding—is that right?

Mr Bird —No. From June until December, half the funding for that financial year was given to the councils to continue that employment.

Senator MOORE —Knowing they were going to cease?

Mr Bird —Knowing they were going to cease. A lot of the councils then decided that they would not take up that funding. Some of those locations were not funded for that period of time.

Senator MOORE —Only in a couple of communities we visited in the last couple of days—and it was only a go in and go out kind of process—the issue about policing came up consistently regarding dissatisfaction. It was not about the performance of the police—we did not get any questions at all about that—it was about the number of police available and the delay if you had an issue and called for support. We can talk to you at any time about what people were saying. Regarding the role of the PCYC, which is absolutely part of the wider activity of the police, do you ever get caught up with that kind of different pressure? That is, you are there with your PCYC hat and your staff members are doing the programs for youth, support and other things, but then you have criminal issues within a community and they are upset because they are not getting the appropriate criminal support.

Mr Bird —Yes, we do. PCYC does because we are the police. You can see that I do not wear a police uniform.

Senator MOORE —Yes, I picked up on that.

Mr Bird —I try and make it very clear that I am there for PCYC. I am employed by the Queensland Police Service. My wages come from there and so to my branch manager’s wages. We ensure that we try and focus on and work very closely with the police in those communities. They have a function. If we can support those police in any way, we will, but the community over the years that we have been there realises that the PCYC vehicle that is going around is picking up kids from their houses and asking them whether they want to go to an activity tonight—’Did you know about it?’ or something like that—not to pick up children and take them to the police station. We have very strict guidelines with respect to that.

Senator MOORE —Not regarding your civilian staff but your police service staff, do you still maintain all your authority under the Police Act? If you needed to do it, could you make an arrest? That kind of thing.

Mr Bird —Yes. I am a sworn police officer and I take an oath of service, and so do my branch managers. There have been occasions where I have had to arrest a person. Through community consultation later and at the negotiation table they praised us for doing that, but they know we are not there to do that.

Senator MOORE —The other issue is recruitment into the police service. I know that the Queensland police force has a very strong recruitment focus. I asked in a couple of communities about whether young people have any aspiration to move into the police service. Is there anything you would like to add on that?

Mr Bird —We support that as much as we possibly can. When the recruiting drives are on we make sure that our police liaison officers are out working with those people. We have even changed the title of police liaison officers within our operation to community support coordinators. That makes a difference to why they believe they are there. In Cooktown we have two police liaison officers and they see the police liaison officers as tools of the operational police. My police liaison officers as community support coordinators go out and assist people in doing applications and assist them to know how they can get through. Sometimes a lot of the barrier is knowing where to go. We have had some successes with that.

Senator ADAMS —I want to ask about retention and housing. How do you house your staff? The accommodation situation came up regularly as we moved around.

Mr Bird —Housing is a major issue for us, and I think it is for every government and non-government department in these locations. We cover four major aspects of sport, recreation, culture and welfare. Sometimes we bring in people in those areas and we find it very hard to house them even for a short period of time. When we developed Doomadgee, a new location, one of our major priorities was that the sergeant had a house. We employ our police liaison officers from the local community, so they have normal residences. Housing for us is a major issue.

I have mentors working within my office. They are skilled and trained people who go out and help community people through TAFE courses and what PCYC needs to deliver for their grants. We find it hard for them to stay on community for lengthy periods of time because it is very costly to put them into lodges, boarding houses and that sort of thing. We do not have housing for them. So at Woorabinda, Kowanyama, Aurukun, Coen and Lockhart River I have mentors. It is very costly for us to have them out there with both travel allowances and housing. Housing is a problem.

Senator ADAMS —And just funding for retention?

Mr Bird —Funding for retention or long term: our funding is month-to-month year-by-year. There are times when I have to go back to government. I have just done that recently in relation to funding places like Hope Vale and Napranum. I have gone back to the state government this time and said I will have to close them down because I do not have the funding. There was major uproar about us closing it down. We have had to close down one of our programs at Napranum—the breakfast program.

Senator ADAMS —We have heard about that.

Mr Bird —Yes. It is only because we cannot get our kitchen up to the standard. The health department has come in and advised us we need to upgrade our kitchen to the new standards. That means we have to put in an extra sink. We have two sinks but we have to put a third sink in and do modifications in the kitchen. Those are the sorts of things I am having a meeting with Mike Fordham from ICC on Friday. In my role I go to regional or state managers and discuss those things to assist.

If we continue the way we are going in relation to having to have grants, our administration will increase and our operation on the ground will decrease. We need to have central funding. People want us to continue to deliver and change the cycle that has been involved, especially while the alcohol management plans are in place. I know I cannot continue to write the grants. I have just done it for the Commonwealth. We are writing all the time. We have professional grant writers to assist us to do that. Then we have to employ administrators to administer the grant. There has to be another way, especially in Indigenous communities, for long-term service providers if there is going to be longevity of more than three years.

The maximum we can get is three years. The normal process is one. It is hit and miss with one because, by the time you get somebody in there, you are giving them false hopes. Communities have had false hopes for many years and they are sick of fly by night false hope situations to fix a small problem and then, if it did have an impact, seeing it not continue. We can only do the best with the system that we have got.

CHAIR —Indeed. Thank you very much for the evidence you have provided today. It has been very interesting. I am sure there is a possibility that members of the committee will require details of your evidence or have other questions. If so, they will be provided through the secretariat. If there are other aspects of the questions and the evidence that you provided that come to mind or you need to provide corrections, please provide that through the secretariat.

Proceedings suspended from 12.42 pm to 1.15 pm