Juno Centre to become temporary home for young people awaiting bail

Juno Centre to become temporary home for young people awaiting bail

An agricultural education space on the outskirts of Tennant Creek will soon be home to a temporary youth justice facility.

Member for Barkly Steve Edgington said part of the Juno Centre, used to teach high school students industry skills in agriculture, would be transformed for temporary use while the Northern Territory government sought a permanent site. 

He said a youth justice facility was promised back in April 2019. 

“The minister for Territory families is clearly moving at a fairly rapid pace by the sounds of it, to take over part of that facility, even though the lease sits with the Department of Education,” Mr Edgington said.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the facility would continue to service students accessing VET programs from the Barkly, Central, and Big Rivers regions.

“This will not change,” the spokesperson said.

Construction to finish mid-year

A letter to Tennant Creek High School families from the school, posted on the Tennant Creek High School Facebook page, outlined plans to “reinvigorate the use of the facility”.

The letter, from acting senior director of the Barkly region Ross McHutcheon, said Territory Families Housing and Communities was constructing bail-supported accommodation next door to the centre.

“Construction is anticipated to be completed mid-2024,” he said.

The Juno Centre is used to teach high school students about agriculture.(ABC Alice Springs: Victoria Ellis)

“In the interim, there will be times when young people awaiting sentencing or bail will be accommodated at the Juno facility.

“These young people are students enrolled in department schools who will be able to continue their learning through access to programs on offer at the centre during their period of stay.”

The letter said there would be no disruption to the VET program delivery at the Juno Centre and management would be transferred to Teaching and Learning Services within the Department of Education, so that it could be “used to its full potential”.

Accommodation and education

A spokesperson from the Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities said a permanent accommodation facility was due to open in July, but confirmed the Juno Centre would accommodate up to six young people from late April until the opening of the permanent site.

“The advantage of the permanent site and the Juno Centre is that they both enable better access for young people to schools and learning facilities to help them achieve educational credits and vocation certification towards an NT Certificate of Education and Training in a supported environment,” the spokesperson said.

“They can also access continued pathways on their departure from the facility, as well as the Tennant Creek Trade Training Centre.”

The interim youth justice facility will accommodate up to six young people.(ABC Rural: Xavier Martin)

The spokesperson said the department had consulted with the Barkly Regional Deal Backbone team and met with the Barkly Regional Council to discuss the interim use of the Juno Centre.

“Juno Centre staff would continue to deliver the VET and education programs they currently do with no impact to young people or the community accessing the centre,” the spokesperson said.

Opportunity for change

Yarraman Territory is an organisation that uses horses to improve individuals’ wellbeing and develop life and vocational skills. Previously it has run programs for young offenders at Darwin’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre teaching kids to ride and care for horses.

Founder Marc Gallagher, who has also spent time working as a trainer at the Juno Centre, hoped having the justice facility within the education space would create opportunities for young offenders to learn, heal, and avoid reoffending.

“That facility has huge potential to help young young fellas out,” he said.

It’s hoped young offenders can find work after training.(ABC Alice Springs: Victoria Ellis)

“We work in Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres, so it’s great to know that some of that work that we’ve been doing with the kids can be carried on at that facility.”

Mr Gallagher said he wanted to help young offenders find work. For some of them, working on cattle stations or learning about agriculture was familiar because their grandparents or older family members would have worked in the same industry.

“It’s the only link that might be able to save these kids and get them back into employment and doing something good for society,” he said.

Marc Gallagher hopes having the justice facility within the Juno Centre will create opportunities for young offenders to learn.(ABC Alice Springs: Victoria Ellis)

Mr Gallagher has put up his hand to help out and teach the young offenders.

“I’ve been working with kids all across northern Australia from all different sorts of backgrounds over the past 10 to 15 years,” he said.

“Some of those kids in the youth justice centre are there for some bad things and they need to be locked up, but other kids there just haven’t had the right role models in their life and they’re quite pleasant to work with, they’re good-mannered.

“You do the right thing by them, and they’ll do the right thing by you.”

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