He looked anxiously at the lights my cameraman was setting up.

"They'll create a shadow, so the people at home won't see your face," I told him.

Our interview had been lined up for days, but the teenager was nervous and about to pull out.

I showed him a photo of what viewers would see, an outline of his silhouette.

Eventually he took a seat, and for the first time looked me right in the eye.

"I'm not a bad person, I'm not a person that commits crime," he tells me.

He was a juvenile criminal before the courts by 14.

"Just what young people get up to when they get into trouble I guess," he said.

"Committing crimes, getting influenced to commit offences.

"At the time I didn't know it was the wrong thing."

He's coy about the crimes he committed; the now 19-year-old doesn't want to delve into the past.

"What happened in the past doesn't define the person that I am today," he said.

"It might shape the person that I am today but it no way defines the person that I am today."

He migrated to Brisbane with his family at age eight from East Africa.

When he arrived, he knew little English. Australia was a culture shock.

But he doesn't like to talk about his past or what led him to his troubled teenage years that saw him caught up in Queensland's youth justice system.

It was a social worker that helped turn his life around.

He was offered a chance at an alternative education program for at-risk youth, and he took it.

Now, he's doing a traineeship in youth justice.

"In five years time I see myself with a degree in criminology and also a permanent job with the Department of Justice," he said.

"I want to help people, people that didn't have the same opportunity that I did."

This young man's remarkable turnaround goes against the statistics.

"If they go into the youth justice system we know there's an almost 100 percent guarantee that they'll re-offend," Queensland's Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, Di Farmer said.

"We need to break that cycle."

Ms Farmer has a tough job ahead.

She plans sweeping changes to the youth justice system, in a bid to help change the statistics.

Right now, Queensland's youth detention centres are so overcrowded, more may need to be built.

The reason many are there is a tragedy in itself.

"We know that over 80 percent of the young people in our detention centres are actually on remand," Ms Farmer said.

"They wouldn't be in those places if they had homes or safe homes to go to."

The government's new strategy will be formulated from a report on youth justice by former police Commissioner Bob Atkinson.

The report suggests 77 recommendations, many of them controversial, including giving police more discretion not to charge young people over minor offences.

Another is to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12.

Staff at the department say it will take a brave government to implement many of these.

They recommendations focus on early intervention, keeping children out of court and custody, and reducing re-offending.

But the real challenge is balancing those with public safety, and community confidence.

The government will release its new youth justice strategy by the end of the year.

Our reformed youth offender says he just wants others to have the same opportunity he did.

"It's shaped me, made me stronger and helped me realise committing crime is not the way," he said.