Law Week 2017 Justice Journeys

Probation and Parole Roma District Office

Queensland’s west is a world of its own – vast, beautiful and with its own set of challenges. This just part of the job for the Roma Probation and Parole District Office.

Drought and flooding rain, part and parcel of the busy schedule of the team at the Roma Probation and Parole District Office.

Roma Probation and Parole 2Roma Probation and Parole District Office staff (from left to right) Steven, Jess, Dianne, Sam and Taylor.

No two days are the same for the Roma Probation and Parole District Office team where droughts, flooding rains and vast distances are part of their working day.

The Roma Probation and Parole District Office is located in Roma, some 470km west of Brisbane.

The important work carried out by the team spreads much further than the borders of the Roma Township.

Like all Queensland Probation and Parole offices, staff of the Roma District are committed to community safety. Their work revolves around supervising people serving out court orders.

They also establish and monitor community service sites that provide offenders with opportunities for reparation to the community.

Unlike many districts, the sheer size of the Roma District can be daunting. It is vast - equal to the size of some European countries.

Roma Probation and Parole 2 Work carried out by the Roma District Office spreads far and wide including working closely with the Charleville Reporting Centre, some 268km away. Charleville staff (from left to right) Samantha, Rebekah and Sophie.

The district stretches from around Yuleba in the east, Injune and Tambo in the north, to the New South Wales border in the south, and beyond Quilpie and Thargomindah, out to the South Australian Border in the far west.

The small number of staff means the members of the Roma District team have to be “Jacks and Jills of all trades”. There are many, many tasks they may be asked to take on. Staff must supervise offenders, develop community service projects, conduct drug tests in the form of urine analysis, as well as undertaking court advisory roles.

Staff need to be resilient and be able to support their fellow team members. The team can also find themselves dealing with rapidly developing situations, often when they least expect it.

The towns in this vast area share rich Indigenous histories. Roma District staff work closely with local Indigenous people and respect important traditional beliefs.

Roma Probation and Parole 3At a meeting with Elders Coordinators in St George (from left to right) Cheryl, Taylor, Leah, Sam and Chris.

Working with Aboriginal Elders is a vital part of the work carried out by the Roma District Office. Recently, some of the Roma District team have begun regular meetings with Elders in St George, with a view to linking offenders to cultural activities in the community.

Research shows that modern intervention programs are most effective when offenders are able to strengthen links to cultural heritage and community.

St George Elders plan to engage offenders in weekly community and cultural activities - including painting, visits to cultural sites and dancing.

Roma Probation and Parole 4Roma Probation and Parole 5A typical road trip landscape for Roma District staff. Photo captured by one of the Probation and Parole Officers of a mob of emus beside the road and a dead tree standing lonely in a thousand hectare paddock.

Road trips are a part of life for Roma District staff – stark blue skies, crisp, clear mornings, stunning sunsets and amazing wildlife – are all part of the average day travelling throughout the district. Some days hitting the road can mean a four hour round trip to a rural/remote reporting centre, such as the Cunnamulla Courthouse.

At these centres, staff meet with offenders for reporting purposes and later provide advice back to the court. Team members also visit community service sites and establish links with local intervention services specialising in rehabilitation programs.

It is a beautiful, but sometimes stark and unforgiving landscape. Skies seem to stretch on forever. In this country, even a dead tree becomes a significant landmark, telling people, after hours of driving, they are getting close to their destination.

Challenges exist in this vast landscape. Mobile phones provide intermittent service and staff now travel with GPS tracking devices to ensure they are being monitored when they are out in remote areas.

Probation and Parole Officers Jess and Taylor were on their way to an important home visit when they found their way blocked by a flooded road, courtesy of the post-cyclone Debbie weather event that recently swept across inland Queensland.

Roma Probation and Parole 7Probation and Parole Officers Jess (left) and Taylor (right) find themselves working in all sorts of weather conditions.

On this chaotic day, Jess was able to identify a safe way around the floodwaters to complete the home visit and get their job done, all in the interests of community safety.

Arriving in a town like Cunnamulla can be like arriving in an oasis after a long drive in western Queensland.

Queensland’s west is a world of its own – vast, beautiful and with its own set of challenges. Roma Probation and Parole takes enormous pride in the professional way they carry out their work and in ensuring court orders are carried out for the benefit of all.

Good systems are in place, and outstanding people work extremely hard to ensure the highest possible standards are maintained in this vast region.