WA Opposition Leader Mia Davies has welcomed the State Government’s $40.4 million budget commitment to address spiralling youth crime in the Kimberley, but has called for programs to be “fast-tracked”.
Announced on May 3, the State Government committed more than $40m to addressing social issues in the crime-plagued Kimberley, with an on-country residential facility for young offenders as an alternative to detention spearheading the spend.
As part of the spend, an additional $2.5m was also allocated to Operation Regional Shield, and a further $4.3m set aside to expand the Target 120 program throughout the region.
It comes after the region has suffered from a sharp rise in juvenile crime over the past two years, with businesses pushed to the brink and demanding action.
In September, the Kimberley’s top cop warned it was “only a matter of time” before more a major tragedy occurred, with police being targetted by juveniles in stolen vehicles.
The offending led WA Premier Mark McGowan to pledge to tackle the issue as a ‘key priority’ in 2022 in his first parliamentary speech for the year.
Ms Davies said the allocation for an on-country residential facility was welcomed and one of the solutions community leaders had been calling for.
“Keeping people on country for rehabilitation is a good first step, but the devil will be in the detail as the project progresses,” she said.
“This is a Government that has relied on spin and rhetoric for five years — the communities in the Kimberley need more than words, they need action.”
Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Neil Thomson said the McGowan Government’s package to break the cycle of youth offending in the Kimberley remained focused on the crimes rather than underlying causes.
“The situation in the Kimberley has been dire and desperate for many people, subjected to the crime and anti-social behaviour over the past two years,” he said.
“While the investment is welcomed, more detail is required to determine if the funding will address the deeper issues being experienced in the region.
“We also have serious questions about the allocation of funds, such as $500,000 provided to progress the planning and development of other safe-place residential accommodation . . . (which) should have already occurred before the region reached its current crisis point.”
In addition to the $40.4m package, the McGowan Government is investing a further $30m for the construction of a new District Support Facility for WA Police in Broome.
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the announcements marked a “step forward” in the State Government’s endeavour to tackle youth crime in the Kimberley.