PLO Laurie Bateman from Cunnamulla (right) and PLO Adam Osbourne from St George (left).
PLO Laurie Bateman from Cunnamulla (right) and PLO Adam Osbourne from St George (left).

A program to reduce crime and create jobs

VETERAN police liaison officer Laurie Bateman has been sent to Cherbourg to develop a program aimed at reducing juvenile offending and keeping kids in school.

It will be based on a program he started in Cunnamulla three years ago that gave students a clear pathway to employment.

With the help of the Cunnamulla State High School and some local farmers, Mr Bateman set up the South West Blue Light Shearing Program.

It takes kids from Years 10-12 out of the classroom and into the shearing shed where they learn hands-on skills and get a taste for working life.

Through the program, the students also qualify for a Cert Two in Rural Operations. While the qualifications are a bonus, Mr Bateman said the real benefit is in teaching young people to problem solve and overcome obstacles, which in turn equips them to deal with greater challenges later in life.

The program has been a success in Cunnamulla, it was extended to St George, and on Monday, PLO Bateman arrived in Cherbourg. He'll spend the next month working with schools, community groups and the police to set a up a similar program in the South Burnett.

"The model that we've got is based around shearing but it could work with any other industry, there's components in it that can really change how young people engage with work and school," Mr Bateman said.

The key component is to challenge young people while giving them the tools and training to overcome those challenges.

"When a young person hits an obstacle, you don't fix it for them you teach them how to fix it," he said.

"They are solving their way through a problem saying, 'These are the steps I need to do to get through this obstacle.'

"It's that learning that is the most important for young people."

The program comes with a number of incentives. In the Cunnamulla shearing sheds, the students get paid for every animal they shear.

This prompts them to learn more and work hard because they'll get a pay cheque at the end of the day.

"They are learning to earn," Mr Bateman said.

"That's a powerful thing."

"When they get better at it, they are learning more, they listen more because they get paid more."

This makes learning become valuable in a very practical sense.

Students need to attend school and stay out of trouble in their communities and Mr Bateman said this has helped reduce rates of juvenile offending while encouraging kids to finish Year 12. As a school-based traineeship, they need to follow the program though for a full two years.

There's also plenty of good-old-fashioned literacy and numeracy skills as well.

"It's alternate learning, we're counting out sheep, filling out log books and ledgers, there's literacy and numeracy lessons in another way.

"Kids are not silly, they now what money is for, we make the program as fun as we can and it becomes easy for them.

"Once it becomes fun, it becomes easy to do the mentoring."

Mr Bateman will be looking for other industries, like cattle farming, that can take students on board.

"They don't have to be shearers when they come out of the program, instead it's all about teaching them how to control their emotion and developing youth to believe in themselves."

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