Law and justice students partnered with Cherbourg Regional Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Services (CRAICCHS) to assist the Cherbourg community with issues surrounding child safety and youth mental health as part of an Indigenous Justice Placement elective unit.
Cherbourg is a town and locality in the Aboriginal Shire of Cherbourg in Queensland, approximately 3 hours drive north west of Brisbane. The students travelled and stayed at Cherbourg twice throughout the semester in order to assist CRAICCHS and the Cherbourg community with two projects.
For the first project students examined the extent to which the Child Placement Principle (‘CPP’), that is embedded in both the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) and the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017 (Qld), is being implemented into practice in Indigenous Queensland communities. This project specifically focused on the participation element of the Child Protection Act as it related to the practices of CRAICCHS within the Cherbourg community. Through consultation with members of CRAICCHS and through in-depth analysis of legislation combined with comparative analysis of similar programs in place in other states of Australia and other countries, the students highlighted concerns surrounding the barriers in place between governmental organisations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services and became aware of the complexities of implementing policies into practice.
Students completing the second project worked with CRAICCHS to create a targeted marketing campaign with a focus on youth mental health within the Cherbourg community. In order to gain an understanding into how the community viewed mental health, the students attended Cherbourg’s annual Community Healing Event, ‘Mental Health Week’ with this year’s event specifically focusing on the region’s youth. The students assisted CRAICCHS to promote mental health services and spoke with members of the community to ascertain their views on mental health, community, CRAICCHS services, the effects of COVID-19 and social media.
Final year Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws (Honours) student Sarah Kneipp reflected on her experience of the project. “It was unique to be able to assist with a project in such a hands-on way by actually visiting and speaking to the stakeholders you are doing the project for. Usually at university the client is theoretical or you never meet them. Each time we visited Cherbourg, and particularly when we visited during Mental Health Week, we witnessed such a strong sense of community, it was a privilege to be a part of. CRAICCHS provide invaluable support and services to the community, and we hope that our work assists CRAICCHS to acquire additional funding so that they can continue doing what they do best.”
QUT and the Cherbourg community have had an ongoing relationship for the last 9 years, where each semester a group of students connects with a particular community entity and completes a project which requires assistance.
Coordinating both projects Senior Lecturer, Christopher Emzin said, "The students were a great group who worked together well, adapted to the COVID-19 restrictions with ease and produced positive outcomes through their project work."
The Indigenous Justice Placement Unit (JSB307) offered by the School of Justice is an ideal opportunity for students to obtain experience working with Queensland Indigenous communities on real world problems.
"The visit to the Cherbourg Ration Shed also provides an excellent insight to laws that operated in Queensland that established Aboriginal Reserves and impact to Indigenous peoples. Anyone looking to explore how they can make an impact on social justice issues should consider the unit," said Christopher Emzin.
Find out more about QUT’s law and justice placements.