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AM - With Michael Coggin

AM - With Michael Coggin

ELIZABETH JACKSON: A 127,000-acre property in western New South Wales is earmarked to be turned into a specialist treatment centre for some of the most troubled teenagers in the country.

A controversial program based in the Northern Territory that's successfully steered more than 300 'at-risk' adolescents away from death and destruction is expanding to meet its growing demand. The property near Bourke has numerous significant Aboriginal sites and it's hoped it will become an early intervention centre aimed at keeping Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids out of the youth justice system. 

From Darwin, Michael Coggan reports.

(Sound of quad bike)

MICHAEL COGGAN: At a secret location on an 11,000 acre property in the Northern Territory a 14-year-old boy who's been in trouble with the law too many times has been honing his skills riding a quad bike through the bush.

PRORGAM PARTICIPANT: I used to run amuck a fair bit, I used to run and try to have fights with other people. 

MICHAEL COGGAN: What do you want to do now? What's your plan? 

PRORGAM PARTICIPANT: Change my life around, get with it. Wait till I'm 16 and start working out here.

MICHAEL COGGAN: What sort of work would you like to do?

PRORGAM PARTICIPANT: Maintenance, like do machinery around here, clean up, fix up, whatever.

MICHAEL COGGAN: He's one of 10 'at-risk' teenagers currently going through a controversial restorative justice and rehabilitation program run by the Brahminy Group.

ALLAN BRAHMINY: So when a kid comes into us, our restorative justice means that he's got to reengage with the community and what he did he has to take ownership of that and where he can actually openly talk. It's like an alcoholic saying, "I'm an alcoholic, I've done bad to the community."

MICHAEL COGGAN: For more than a decade Allan Brahminy has used controversial methods to treat boys and girls aged between eight and 17 from all over the country. In most cases his clients have been too challenging for other organisations to deal with.

ALLAN BRAHMINY: Aggravated assaults, high-ended rape cases, child-abuse cases, domestic violence cases, low dysfunctional family aspects, neglect, abandonment.

MICHAEL COGGAN: Of more than 350 children who have been through the program all but 22 have avoided going back into the justice system.

Allan Brahminy says that success hinges on his clients being pushed to breaking point.

ALLAN BRAHMINY: Well, we've got to get them through their anger period, they're angry, they're traumatised, when they get to an area where they're actually physically exhausted and they're beginning to have emotional effect, they're crying, that means they're starting to question where they are at in life.

MICHAEL COGGAN: With growing demand for treatment of at-risk youth, the Brahminy Group is now moving to establish a new youth treatment centre on a 127,00-acre property near Bourke in New South Wales.

The Bourke treatment centre is expected to start operating later this year with the aim of reducing the high representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system and it has the backing of the state's Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kevin Humphries who has visited the Brahminy facility in the Territory.

KEVIN HUMPHRIES: Forty-four per cent of children or juveniles in New South Wales in detention are of Aboriginal background. The proportion is extreme. So people like myself are looking for strategies that we can put in place on the ground that will make a difference and you can see that Allan's facility in the Territory does that.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's the New South Wales Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kevin Humphries ending that report from Michael Coggan.