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Turning Corners: An integrated response to young people who have engaged in, or are at risk of engaging in, harmful sexual behaviour

May 13, 2020

Since the 90s there has been growing recognition not only of the prevalence of sexual assault of children by adults, but also that sexual assault instigated by young people does occur and is more than experimentation and curiosity. Indeed, research indicates that approximately 30 to 60% of child sexual assault is carried out by children and young people against other children (Grant, et al. 2009).

In the past, work with young people who engaged in harmful sexual behaviour was misguidedly based on adult sex-offender theory and treatment models, which do not consider the developmental stages and moral development of young people. The program is built on the understanding that young people engage in harmful sexual behaviours for a wide variety of reasons and as a result of many different influences on their lives.

Bravehearts recognised the need for a treatment and early intervention program specific to adolescents. To this end, development of Turning Corners, began in earnest in late 2015. Bravehearts’ Founder and Executive Chair, Hetty Johnston AM, said of the program;

“Early intervention is key to making meaningful changes and growth in a young person’s life. We must address the whole cycle of assault if we are truly going to prevent child sexual assault from occurring in Australia.”

Turning Corners was launched in 2016 during Child Protection Week. This innovative program provides a comprehensive and integrated response to working with young people aged 12 to 17 who have engaged in, or are at risk of engaging in, harmful sexual behaviour. We also provide support for adults with an intellectual impairment up to the age of 21 and are very proud to be a registered NDIS provider. Led by a team of dedicated specialist counsellors, the program was subject to an initial independent evaluation in 2018 by Dr Nadine McKillop of the University of the Sunshine Coast Sexual Violence and Research and prevention Unit with very promising results.

“Turning Corners changes more than just the reason why you come here – it changes your life. I haven’t been as happy as I am in an extremely long time, and I couldn’t have been without Turning Corners.” Feedback from Turning Corners client, 15 years

Young people do not need to be engaged in the youth justice system to access the program, nor do they require a professional referral to seek treatment. The program draws on the young person’s strengths and has a strong focus on early intervention and improved outcomes for the client, their family and the community.

Turning Corners began seeing clients in November 2016. From then until now, 67 young people have engaged in the program, over 333 individual counselling sessions.

Referrals for the program come via Department of Youth Justice including conference meeting support, The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Woman Queensland, non-government agencies and private referrals (such as a parents, guardian or GP). Since its launch, there has been a growing demand for the Turning Corners service, which now sees clients in various sites across Queensland. During this current pandemic, we have successfully been delivering our counselling support service through our secure E-health Platform as well as telephone support.

For more information about Turning Corners, please refer to our website or email


REFERENCE: Grant, J. et al. (2009). Intrafamilial adolescent sex offenders: psychological profile and treatment. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 375. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology

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