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Getting Lives on Track

Community Service Rejuvenation Project

Community service explained

Give Back – Getting lives on track

The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring offenders serve their full sentence – either in custody or under supervision in the community.  A critical part of this is the use of community service orders by the courts.

Every day across Queensland, offenders supervised by Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) are involved in worthwhile projects that give back to local communities. Over the years, they have helped to maintain and improve sporting venues, cemeteries and parks; sort recyclable items for resale by charities; and assist in food preparation and laundry services for residential care establishments.

In 2007-2008, community service workers performed a total of 342,858 hours of unpaid work across 500 projects, which equates to more than $5 million worth of improvements to communities throughout the State.

What is community service?

Community service is unpaid work that an offender is ordered to do by a court. Offenders can be sentenced to a community service or an intensive correction order. Offenders can also apply to do community service instead of paying a fine.

The purpose of community service is to make sure offenders give back to the communities they offended against. Over the years, many worthwhile community projects have been completed at minimal cost to the community.

Community service can also help offenders turn their lives around. Worthwhile social contacts can be formed, jobs found, work habits re-established for the unemployed and positive attitudes developed through helping others.

What part do councils and communities play?

Local community advisory committees are best placed to nominate suitable projects, while councils have all the necessary resources to successfully operate them, including their ability to meet workplace health and safety standards. By working together, advisory committees and councils can help QCS to develop more community service projects where they are most needed.

How are orders made?

The courts may order offenders aged 17 years or over to perform community service if they are sure that:

  • the offender is a suitable person to perform community service;
  • community service is available in the area where the offender lives; and
  • the offender agrees to obey the conditions of the order.

Community service work should not conflict with the worker’s religious beliefs or interfere, as far as practicable, with family, educational or employment obligations.

Profile of a typical offender sentenced to complete community service

Offenders sentenced to a community service order are predominantly male and on average, are 27-years-old. The most common offences committed by community service offenders range from property damage, fraud, and theft to traffic and vehicle-related offences.

What happens to community service workers who don’t obey the rules?

Offenders who fail to comply with their orders are removed from the community service project and returned to court for breach action. Depending on the order, the court may impose a fine, make an order for them to continue with the community service, or re-sentence them for the original offence. A fine option order will revert to the original fine, payable immediately, with allowance made for the time worked.

Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

Community service workers are covered for statutory benefits under QCS’s policy of insurance with WorkCover Queensland (Section 20 of the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003). Community service projects, workers and Queensland Corrective Services all have a responsibility to ensure that community service work is carried out safely in a safe environment.

What kind of work do offenders do?

Offenders perform a variety of activities on various projects, including the removal of graffiti, garden and lawn maintenance, rubbish removal, sorting clothing for charities like Lifeline, food preparation for aged care facilities and general cleaning.

The aim is to allocate the labour where it is needed most in the community.

Graffiti Removal

Graffiti affects everyone in a community, from residents and business owners to local government, utilities companies and public transport operators.

New laws were passed in August 2008 to improve the clean-up rate for the removal of graffiti through better access for graffiti removal officers.

In a statement to the media on 27 August 2008, Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport, Judy Spence said: “Research indicates that graffiti can cause residents to be more fearful of crime and encourage offenders to commit further crimes.”

In a further statement on 14 September 2008, Ms Spence and Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman announced the launch of a joint Graffiti Task Force to crack down on graffiti crime in the Brisbane area, putting offenders to work on cleaning up the blight of vandals’ spray paint.

Last updated: 16 December 2013