A young Aussie has revealed his solution to solve Queensland's youth crime crisis (pictured, teenager being arrested following riot at a juvenile detention centre)

A teenager suffering from drug addiction who turned to stealing cars to fuel his bad habits has revealed how a military camp completely changed his life.

‘I was dealing drugs, using them, stealing cars, breaking into houses and so on,’ Cooper told Daily Mail Australia.

Cooper had spent almost a year out of his family home when his mother heard about a program called Hard Yakka, based in south-east Queensland, on A Current Affair.

She gave her son an ultimatum, do the course or ‘don’t bother coming home’.

‘I was pretty open-minded but when I got there I hid my phone from them, spent the first night and hated it. I called Mum to tell her to come get me, or I was gonna steal a car and run away,’ he said.

A young Aussie has revealed his solution to solve Queensland's youth crime crisis (pictured, teenager being arrested following riot at a juvenile detention centre)

A young Aussie has revealed his solution to solve Queensland’s youth crime crisis (pictured, teenager being arrested following riot at a juvenile detention centre)

But something clicked for Cooper while on the Hard Yakka camp, which uses a combination of mental and physical challenges and talking therapy to help young offenders.

‘Once I realised there was no escaping I started to do the activities, then I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought and I had quite a lot of fun,’ Cooper said.

‘When Bob [the camp owner] has the chats with us and makes us sit down and really realise what we’re doing and the effects it has, that’s where it got to me.

‘It made me stop and think, “instead of being selfish and focusing on myself, I need to look at what my actions are doing to everyone around me”.’

Cooper, now 22, successfully completed the program in 2019. 

The biggest thing he took from the camp was realising how much his family loved him and deciding ‘I didn’t want to hurt them anymore than I already had or disappoint them’.

Cooper (pictured) completed Hard Yakka in 2019 and has returned to the program as a volunteer

Cooper (pictured) completed Hard Yakka in 2019 and has returned to the program as a volunteer

‘I gave it my best shot to stop using drugs and told the people I was hanging out with I wasn’t going to anymore, which was hard because they all threaten me but that just made realise even more they weren’t true mates,’ he said.

Now he’s a volunteer for the Hard Yakka program, helping other young offenders straighten up.

‘I really love it. I think it’s an awesome thing that’s going on here. Even if it’s just helping one boy, it’s a great thing to do,’ he said.

‘I know a lot of people that have gone to juvie and they just come out even worse, no better at all. They just get angrier.

‘I’ve kept in touch with some boys who have been on this camp and they’re doing really well so it’s definitely a lot better than just chucking someone in juvie where they don’t learn anything.’

Bob Davis created the boys camp in July 2008 after leaving the army and thinking how its principles – like self-discipline and teamwork – could help struggling children.

The course has the ability to help almost everyone, from phone addicts all the way to car thieves. 

Operation Hard Yakka helps boys as young as nine years old stop bad habits and behaviour

Operation Hard Yakka helps boys as young as nine years old stop bad habits and behaviour

The camp uses military-style challenges combined with conversation therapy to help everyone, from phone addicts all the way to car thieves

The camp uses military-style challenges combined with conversation therapy to help everyone, from phone addicts all the way to car thieves

Kids at the camp do abseiling, horse riding and several military activities, including camping

Kids at the camp do abseiling, horse riding and several military activities, including camping

Mr Davis believes his program produces positive results because it allows the kids to face challenges and reflect on their decisions without the pressure from bad influences.

‘So with the military style, of course we’ve got the adventure base with abseiling, horse riding, those sort of things to make it a bit of a fun camp,’ Mr Davis told Daily Mail Australia.

‘But when they do abseiling, they’ve got to listen, they’ve got to trust, they’ve got to be honest.

Bob Davis (pictured) created the boys camp in July 2008 after leaving the army and thinking how its principles - like self-discipline and teamwork - could helped struggling children

Bob Davis (pictured) created the boys camp in July 2008 after leaving the army and thinking how its principles – like self-discipline and teamwork – could helped struggling children

‘So there’s a reason for why we do those activities.’

However, Mr Davis is a firm believer in the power of talking and understands only challenging kids won’t result in lasting change.

‘We get into finding out why they’re doing what they’re doing,’ he said.

‘Sometimes these boys, they may come from a bad family or they may be being bullied at school. Some have been physically, mentally and even sexually abused.

‘They’ve been misguided. The whole program helps them realise who loves them, who cares for them.

‘If you’ve got one person in your life that loves you, then you’re the luckiest person on the planet.’

Mr Davis described his program as ‘firm but fair’ and highlights a higher than 90 per cent success rate from children and parents, with many often returning to the camp as volunteers to help more kids. 

‘It’s not about breaking their spirit. People see these horror military program statistics from overseas but that’s not our program,’ Mr Davis said.

‘We want to make them understand their self worth, that they can do things better and who they’re really letting down.

‘It’s not about breaking spirits because if a young fellow’s got the spirit to do bad, how about we redirect it to doing good.’

Mr Davis described his program as 'firm but fair' and highlights a higher than 90 per cent success rate from children and parents

Mr Davis described his program as ‘firm but fair’ and highlights a higher than 90 per cent success rate from children and parents

Cooper said Hard Yakka is 'definitely a lot better than just chucking someone in juvie where they don't learn anything'

Cooper said Hard Yakka is ‘definitely a lot better than just chucking someone in juvie where they don’t learn anything’

Despite creating a tangible solution for the youth crime epidemic, Mr Davis said his program has become subject to complicated politics.

The Queensland Liberal Party in 2013 announced it would provide funding for youth offenders to complete life-changing courses.

Mr Davis’ Hard Yakka was one of four camps chosen for funding. His was the only military-style camp with the other three described as ‘boot camps’.

‘We raised extra money and we end up putting through 72 boys,’ Mr Davis said.

However, when Queensland Labor was elected to power in 2015 it cut all funding for the programs and barred its leaders, like Mr Davis, from reaching out to participants. 

‘Unfortunately, when the Labor Party got in they canned the whole all of it,’ Mr Davis said.

‘They told youth justice we could not mentor any of the boys we’d put through during those two years, but part of the program is mentoring afterwards.

‘Everything fell apart.’

Since losing the crucial funding Mr Davis has been reliant on his other business, which offers corporate training session, to bridge the gap between what he feels comfortable charging for Hard Yakka and its actual cost. 

‘The cost of a 12-day program is $4,700, that seems like a lot of money but I should be charging close to $12,000 to make it work,’ Mr Davis said.

‘It’s getting to a point where it’s getting more expensive because food has gone up, fuel’s gone up, every single thing has gone up.

‘I’m trying to keep that down to the $4,700 but it is difficult.’

Mr Davis' Hard Yakka was one of four camps chosen for funding by the Liberal Party in 2013

Mr Davis’ Hard Yakka was one of four camps chosen for funding by the Liberal Party in 2013

The Labor Party stopped funding the program when it came into power over the state in 2015

The Labor Party stopped funding the program when it came into power over the state in 2015

Mr Davis said the Liberal Party should ‘be congratulated for at least trying to solve some problems’.

‘There’s just no interest from Labor about it and they have made it very political,’ he said.

‘It’s a shame because it should not be political. It should be about helping the families, 100 per cent.’

Mr Davis said it’s important youth offenders were stopped, before it was too late, and another innocent victim was killed.

The tragic faces of Queensland’s youth crime crisis 

Emma Lovell

Emma Lovell, 41, was  stabbed at her home at North Lakes, north of Brisbane, on Boxing Day 2022. 

Emma Lovell, 41, was stabbed at her home at North Lakes, north of Brisbane, on Boxing Day 2022

Emma Lovell, 41, was stabbed at her home at North Lakes, north of Brisbane, on Boxing Day 2022

Her killer, who cannot legally be named as he was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to her murder earlier this year. 

Now aged 19, he was sentenced at Brisbane’s Supreme Court where a judge jailed  him for 14 years for his ‘heinous crime’.

Vyleen White

Vyleen White, 70, was shopping at Town Square in Redbank Plains with a six-year-old girl in February, when she was allegedly attacked by a group of five teenagers. 

A 16-year-old Bellbird Park boy was subsequently charged with White’s stabbing murder. 

The motive for the alleged attack on White was to steal her Hyundai Getz, Queensland police said at the time. 

Retired grandmother Vyleen White (pictured) was murdered during an alleged carjacking on Saturday night

Retired grandmother Vyleen White (pictured) was murdered during an alleged carjacking on Saturday night

Matthew Field and Kate Leadbetter 

Matthew Field and a pregnant Kate Leadbetter were walking dogs at Alexandra Hills in the City of Redland when they were struck by a stolen car on Australia Day in 2021.

The couple and their unborn child were killed in the horrific incident.

The drunk and drug-addled 17-year-old driver ran a red light before the stolen Landcruiser collided with a truck, rolled and hit the couple.

The teen was found to have had a blood alcohol content between 0.151 and 0.192 per cent at the time of the crash. 

The teen was found to have had a blood alcohol content between 0.151 and 0.192 per cent at the time of the crash.

The teen fled, stealing keys from a nearby house before being caught by a resident and arrested. 

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail following the crash.

Matthew Field and a pregnant Kate Leadbetter were walking dogs at Alexandra Hills in the City of Redland when they were struck by a stolen car on Australia Day in 2021

Matthew Field and a pregnant Kate Leadbetter were walking dogs at Alexandra Hills in the City of Redland when they were struck by a stolen car on Australia Day in 2021

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