TOUGH LOVE: Melita Shaw is proud of the changes in her son Cody Lorkin’s behaviour after he attended an army-style bootcamp.
TOUGH LOVE: Melita Shaw is proud of the changes in her son Cody Lorkin’s behaviour after he attended an army-style bootcamp. David Nielsen

"Boot camp works: it saved my son"

IT'S hard to picture Cody Lorkin as an out-of-control teen with anger issues and a taste for reckless behaviour.

The soft-spoken Year 10 student appears friendly and polite.

So it's a surprise when his mother Melita Shaw tells the story of how her 14-year-old son used to leave their house in Brassall to stay out all night.

Or how he once smashed her windows and punched a hole in the wall during a fit of rage.

Or the time he jumped onto the back of a moving train, holding onto the windscreen wiper from Goodna to Redbank.

"I had a boy who was just totally rebellious and wasn't going to listen to me," she said.

"I felt helpless."

Cody's remarkable change in attitude and behaviour didn't happen by chance.

It was the result of a boot camp for troubled teens called Operation: Hard Yakka.

Based on the Fraser Coast, the program was developed in 2008 to help wayward boys get back onto the right path.

Former Special Forces instructor Bob Davis, who operates the camp, said youngsters who took part learnt some important life lessons.

"It's a military-style youth diversion training program," Mr Davis said.

"It's not like those boot camps you see in the American movies with the drill instructor screaming at his recruits.

"We don't want to break the teens' spirits, just direct them in the right way."

Mr Davis said each program began by dressing the boys in army uniform so that everyone was alike.

During the weeks that follow youngsters take part in physical training, drills, adventure-based challenges and community awareness.

Mr Davis said the key to the program's success was the course's military-style approach which enforced discipline, respect, listening skills and teamwork.

Since getting the 'Hard Yakka' treatment, Cody has a new outlook on life.

"It made me realise some of the important things that I was missing out on," he said.

He returned from the three-week course last month and to his family's delight has become a much more responsible and respectful teenager.

Reform doesn't come cheap though - it cost Ms Shaw around $4000 to enlist Cody in the program.

But the grateful mum said the results were worth every cent.

"The family is over the moon with Cody's transformation," she said.

"Bob and his team at Hard Yakka have saved my son's life - I can't thank them enough."

Mr Davis said one of the biggest challenges was ensuring teens maintained their good behaviour when sent back to their home environment.

"If the boys or their families are ever struggling they know that our team will always make themselves available for support," he said.

"We still keep in touch with kids from 2008 camps who get in contact with us if they ever need help with a challenging situation."

Mr Davis said he was striving to gain State Government funding to ease the financial burden on parents and make the program more accessible for families.

As part of its overhaul of youth justice, the State Government has opted to trail early intervention youth boot camps to get at-risk youngsters back on track before they slumped into serious criminal activities.

Premier Campbell Newman announced five boot camps, including one based on the Fraser Coast, would receive backing from the State Government.

Mr Campbell said the camps would not be easy, but would provide an alternative to the revolving door of youth crime.

The initiative will receive an estimated $600,000 in funding.

Mr Davis said he was putting in a big effort to win the tender for the camp, with hopes the level of community support would secure it.

The camp is one of three in Queensland chosen for trial.

For details on Operation: Hard Yakka call 0407 769 124.

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