Maria* was first referred to the Youth Advocacy Centre when she was 15 years old by the Queensland Police Service / Education Queensland liaison worker. She had come to their attention following shoplifting charges and high levels of truancy despite her stated aspirations and hopes for a ‘normalised’ school experience. She struggled at school, finding it difficult to keep up with her peers.
Maria went to school interstate and her early school years were disrupted multiple times due to family violence and break up, unstable housing, and alcohol issues at home. Her mother left the family and Child Safety removed Maria and her siblings from her father and the siblings were separated from each other.
Maria respected her father, but he had a temper. Maria wanted to find her mother and in due course, was reunited with her in Queensland when Maria was thirteen. However, the relationship soon broke down as a result of several factors, including a very different parenting style to that of Maria’s father. This led to conflict and arguments and culminating in Maria physically abusing her mother.
Maria was referred to the Youth Advocacy Centre’s Family Support worker who, with Maria’s permission, engaged with Maria’s mother to assist with her parenting to improve her relationship with Maria. The Family Support worker assisted her mother to have counselling to address her anger and general emotional responses and to access prescribed medication. She also took Maria and her mother to family violence counselling.
Unfortunately, the mother had several relationships which complicated these efforts and which led to conflict with Maria, as well as between Maria and the partners.
Maria struggled to attend school due to late nights, other people at her home and disorganised routines.
Contact between Maria with her father was complicated by him living in another state because of his work. However, this work also provides an opportunity for him to come to Queensland.
Maria’s offending escalated from stealing from shops to a significant assault of another young person. She was charged and represented by a Youth Advocacy Centre lawyer.
Maria had become increasingly violent in her relationship with her boyfriend and was later charged following a serious assault on another young woman and someone who came to her aid. This resulted in her being referred to the Children’s Court of Queensland. During this time, she was involved in substance use which had a significant dis-inhibiting effect.
The Court ordered Maria to attend a Restorative Justice Conference (RJC). The RJC had a significant impact on Maria who wrote a heartfelt letter of remorse, sorrow and an expression of her shame. There was an emotional interaction between Maria and the witnesses who had attended.
Maria’s boyfriend’s family have been a support to Maria and her boyfriend, setting strict boundaries and consequences around her behaviour. Maria has accessed mental health counselling and a trauma focussed counselling service which have been of benefit to her and her relationships.
The Youth Advocacy Centre Family Support worker assisted her and her boyfriend with a hospitality course, which they completed, and then to undertake paid traineeships.
* Not her real name