Youth diversion flagged for Aboriginal cultural centre
A CLARENCE Valley Aboriginal organisation has confirmed there are plans to establish a youth diversion centre in the region.
The manager of the Gurehlgam Corporation, Kenn Payne, has confirmed his organisation and a member of the new Grafton jail consortium, Serco, are in the early stages of developing a proposal called Home Strait to convert some of the facilities of the Yarrawarra Cultural Centre at Corindi for a "youth diversionary centre" for young Aboriginals at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.
Mr Payne said he would not comment at length but said the proposal was still just "an idea".
He was also adamant the Yarrawarra Cultural Centre would continue to promote the culture of the Gumbaynggirr people.
He refused to comment further and asked all further questions be directed to Serco.
The proposal has concerned the Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council.
Its CEO, Nathan Brennan, said there were not many details available but he had concerns about the lack of transparency and community consultation.
Mr Brennan said the Local Aboriginal Land Council had met with Gurehlgam last week but was not satisfied at the level of detail provided.
"The proposal is for a diversionary facility for youth aged 16 to 24," he said.
"Gurehlgam reiterated that there is no solid information regarding the Home Strait program at this stage and it is only a concept."
Mr Brennan said he was also worried about Serco's level of involvement in the operation of the centre.
"From the meeting it seems that Serco is a major partner in funding this project," he said.
"I am assuming that Serco is committing money from building the Grafton jail, in which it is required to dedicate a portion of the overall project spend to Aboriginal employment, education or programs."
Mr Brennan said the Corindi community also had concerns about the proximity of the proposed centre to the public school.
"The Land Council will have meetings with other Aboriginal partners and investigate other ways to ensure we get the outcome we require in terms of representing the interests of Gumbaynggirr people," he said.
On social media an online petition to stop the centre proposal has gathered almost 1000 signatures.
It said the preferred option was for Yarrawarra to be handed back to the Garby elders with the support of Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council and Grafton Ngerrie Aboriginal Land Council.
"We do not want young adult men diverted from entering remand in our community and next door to our primary school," the petition reads.
"The mention of relapse prevention displays to the community these young men would have had previous drug and/or criminal histories."
A spokesman for Serco said Gurehlgam Corporation and the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre are in the co-development phase of a new potential initiative to support young Aboriginal men.
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