NRL mentors announced in Government’s “Project Pathfinder” PR stunt will not help divert kids from crime in regional areas

Australian Greens

A new pilot program between the NSW Police Force and the National Ruby League (NRL) is being rolled out in Moree to tackle youth crime. The project was announced just weeks after the Minns Government’s controversial youth bail laws were passed in Parliament, making it harder for children to access bail.

Greens MP and spokesperson for Justice Sue Higginson said “This program should be called out for what it really is: a smokescreen and a distraction to divert attention from the punitive law-and-order regime the Minns Government is busy mounting against troubled youth,”

“Project Pathfinder is nothing short of a well timed media distraction to turn heads from Labor’s recent youth bail law catastrophe. Instead of pushing genuine reform, the Premier is drumming up feel-good media stories and hiding behind the star power of the NRL,”

“If the politics of the day were more concerned with funding and delivering robust, community centred and evidence-based programs instead of conducting PR campaigns to obfuscate their draconian policies, then we might actually see some improvement in the lives of regional youth. The political posturing of this announcement couldn’t be clearer. Labor is more concerned with its image rather than creating good policy and genuinely dealing with crime,”

“The public deserves to know how much of the $26.6 million of funding dedicated to supporting community safety and wellbeing is being diverted to paying for the high-profile sports stars, instead of actually investing in existing and long terms solutions to the problems they face,”

“NRL mentors are far from a boundless resource. It is incredibly concerning that the Government should centre its first major announcement of diversionary and support programs to address youth crime on the availability and status of a handful of sports mentors. How many kids will be left in the lurch when these sportspeople have to get back to their day jobs?”

“A mountain of community-centred, evidence-based, early intervention programs desperate for more funding already exist and have been tried and tested. Instead, the Minns Government is insistent on rolling out short-sighted, costly pilots with little scope, “

“Instead of hiding behind star-power, Minns should be backing the thousands of community-centred initiatives that already exist to support kids and divert them from the criminal justice system. We should be funding youth justice professionals, youth workers, First-Nations cultural programs, out-of-home care facilities and traineeships that appeal to a range of interests and needs, not just Rugby.”

“There is no doubt that mentors play an important role in offering hope to young people trapped in cycles of crime. Positive role models are one pillar of support and should be focussed on people within the community, alongside a range of diversionary programs led by professionals with expertise engaging children facing complex trauma, or we risk failing these kids in the long run,”

“We need real alternatives that break the cycle of crime and address the systemic issue of youth crime uptick. These kids deserve better and they deserve much more than a few football stars flown in for a PR stunt.”

/Public Release. View in full here.