Thomas Holden has abruptly resigned, with allegations the Youth Justice Department disrespected the traditional owners and the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Picture: Shae Beplate.
Thomas Holden has abruptly resigned, with allegations the Youth Justice Department disrespected the traditional owners and the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Picture: Shae Beplate.

Govt ‘hasn’t got a clue’: Youth crime boss resigns

A key member of a government-run Townsville youth crime board has quit amid allegations senior youth justice department executives were "incompetent", and were "disrespectful" to traditional owners.

Activate One/North 360 chief executive Thomas Holden said he wanted to hold the government to account following allegations that an IT bungle was to blame for the mishandling of an application for the recently awarded On Country program.

"The reason I've resigned from the board is to hold the Youth Justice Department accountable and don't want to commit more resources to a government department that is failing," Mr Holden said.

 

Thomas Holden is disappointed with allegations the Youth Justice Department in disrespected the traditional owners and the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Picture: Shae Beplate.
Thomas Holden is disappointed with allegations the Youth Justice Department in disrespected the traditional owners and the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Picture: Shae Beplate.


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The advisory board was intended as a think-tank tasked with creating projects aimed at curbing Townsville's youth crime issue, and was a key recommendation to the State Government following retired Major General Stuart Smith's report into Townsville crime.

Chaired by the regional director of the Department of Youth Justice, the board was made up of community, business, not-for-profit sector and government representatives, including from Townsville State High School, Townsville City Council and traditional owners.

Mr Holden, who is also chief executive of the organisation at the centre of the controversy, said he couldn't be part of a board that was aligned with the Youth Justice Department when its own senior executives were "moving towards risking cultural protocols, cultural capability and creating a disconnect with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community of the Townsville region".

"They said they received part of our application so why didn't someone pick up the phone and talk to us? Instead they just keep handing out money blindly," he said.

"They didn't contact a single traditional owner during their procurement process so how can they claim what they've done is culturally appropriate?"

Mr Holden said the other members of the board should be commended for their meaningful engagement and good intentions to curb the region's youth crime issue, which came to a head after four young teens died in a stolen car that was allegedly being driven by a 14-year-old boy early on Sunday, June 7.

 

Four children were killed after a crash at a Garbutt intersection. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Four children were killed after a crash at a Garbutt intersection. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

 

Mr Holden said this was a catalyst for his Indigenous community.

"We were a community in mourning and at the same time saying we've had a gut full (of crime)," he said.

"During that process we have stood up and decided to have a crack at this tender so we can start repairing our kids and yet it's gone to someone outside of Townsville.

"It's been gut wrenching to know we hit every requirement of the tender yet we weren't even at the table."

Mr Holden said the tender process for the On Country program should have been reviewed and undergone a reassessment when it was found the Three Big Rivers application wasn't received due to an alleged IT glitch.

Instead it remains awarded to Gr8Motive.

A spokesman for the Department of Youth Justice said the offer for the delivery of an On Country program in Townsville from Three Big Rivers was received and assessed in line with Queensland Government procurement processes.

"Contracts were awarded following robust open procurement processes," the spokesman said. "The majority of members of the selection panel were external to the Department of Youth Justice and identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders.

"Gr8motive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation were awarded the contract to deliver On Country trials. and 16 young people have been referred to the program. We look forward to the results and feedback from those involved.

"The department wrote to Mr Holden on June 29 to notify Three Big Rivers that their tender offer was unsuccessful. The department wrote to Mr Holden again on July 2 in response to his concerns over the procurement process.

"We thank Mr Holden for his work on the Youth Offender Accountability Board."

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said he understands Three Big Rivers' frustration and that he will "continue to meet with them and continue to explore further opportunities for young Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people".

"I know this group has done some great work in our community and look forward to continuing the great relationship that we have in future," Mr Harper said.

Originally published as Govt 'hasn't got a clue': Youth crime boss resigns


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