Community bands together to tackle rising assault rate
As Paul Stanley bravely recounted the tragic death of his son to a room of strangers in Mackay, not an eye was dry.
Matthew Stanley was just 15-years-old when he was savagely beaten and killed by another teenager, at a birthday party in Brisbane, in 2006.
Now, Paul is dedicating his life to reducing the rising rate of assault crimes in Mackay.
Crime has risen by 44 per cent in Mackay over the past decade and there has been the same increase in assault offences.
Local teachers, councillors, police officers, liquor industry workers and health officials have brainstormed at a forum today, united in efforts to come up with a community-led approach to solving the problem.
Paul was the first to speak.
"Can I ask everyone to close their eyes and think of the most important person in your life," he asked the crowd.
In a powerful silence, everyone did as they were asked.
"Think about the last time you saw them, what were you talking about?
"Imagine if you never get to see them again."
Superintendent Glenn Morris says crime is a complex issue that has devastating impacts on all corners of the community.
"We are seeing different offending types of behaviours across different areas, and I guess today gives us the opportunity to bring people together from different aspects ... we can then try and deal with the different nuisances that are causing offending behaviour," Superintendent Morris says.
Having spent decades researching offenders' motives, Griffith University criminologist Dr Tarah Hodgkinson says the forum is an important first step in trailling new programs and strategies.
She recently visited Roma, in outback Queensland, where they have set up a 'youth hub' aimed at curbing an increase in violence.
"One of the fantastic things about starting this conversation is that it builds the ground swell for multi-stakeholder change, and that turns to be the most supported and evidence-based strategy.
"There's lots of programs that can work, there's lots of strategies that can be used, but really this kind of collection of important and thoughtful people is going to make that difference."
Representatives from each sector have been tasked with coming up with ideas on how to help create change ahead of the next forum.
They will meet again later this year.