The Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System is an opportunity to better support young people who come into contact with the justice system

Victoria’s human rights obligations are clear when it comes to the treatment of young people in the criminal justice system: detaining young people must be a last resort. However, the youth justice system currently incarcerates and remands children and young people by default. Too often decisions about young people’s futures are made by adults —including police officers, bail justices, youth justice workers — who do not understand the unique needs of young people, and make harmful assumptions which punish them rather than address disadvantage. As a result, young people are being incarcerated when they simply should not be.   

YACVic’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System highlights that the experiences of young people in the criminal justice system not only need urgent rectification, but also present significant opportunities to address systemic disadvantage and create the right conditions for these young people to rehabilitate and ultimately lead fulfilling and productive lives.  

By investing more in early intervention and prevention initiatives, as well as developing better support systems for those coming out of jail, the youth justice system can be significantly improved to better address key inequities around remand, recidivism and other issues across the system. Challenging these inequities will play a vital role in freeing up resources in an already strained justice system, and in working towards just outcomes for the children and young people we represent.


Bail and Remand 

Recommendation 1: 

Repeal the reverse-onus provisions in the bail laws.

Recommendation 2:  

Create a presumption in favour of bail for all offences, with the onus on the prosecution to demonstrate that bail should not be granted. 

Recommendation 3:  

Repeal the offences of committing an indictable offence while on bail, breaching bail conditions and failure to answer bail.

Recommendation 4:  

Expand the hours for bail hearings and existing bail supports, such as the Central After-Hours Assessment and Bail Placement Service (CAHABPS), to have at least some after-hours coverage at minimum, and with 24-hour access as the objective.

Recommendation 5:  

Establish a comprehensive state-wide bail support program for children and young people.

Recommendation 6:  

Ensure that any bail support for children and young people necessarily includes appropriate accommodation services, for example in the form of supported bail residences.

 Recommendation 7:  

Consider how service operating hours might be impacting access when reviewing service gaps in Victoria's homelessness sector as per Recommendation 2 from the Final Report from the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria.

Recommendation 8:  

Develop and implement a Protocol for Victoria Police and other enforcement agencies to use in responding to people experiencing homelessness, with a view to keep young people experiencing homelessness out of prison where possible.

Recommendation 9:  

Monitor and evaluate whether the operating hours of each outer suburban and regional Children’s Court reflect the behaviours and needs of the young people they service.

Recommendation 10:  

Ensure that any other state-wide supports are implemented with a view to equal access for young people in rural and regional Victoria.

 Recommendation 11:  

Support disabled young people to access bail through an alternative process specifically designed for offenders with intellectual disabilities, rather than the mainstream bail system.

Cautioning and other interactions with Victoria Police 

Recommendation 12: 

Legislate the fair and equitable use of police cautioning, and monitor the implementation of this legislation and review within two years of the reform.

Recommendation 13:  

Resource targeted youth outreach programs as part of Victoria's integrity system, particularly from the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission, which educate young people on their rights, including how to report police misconduct.

Recommendation 14:  

Mandate assessable, and ongoing disability training for all Victorian Police, to embed a human rights and social model understanding of disability, informed by the CRPD. Training must address how to identify, refer and support young people with undiagnosed disabilities.

Recommendation 15:  

Employ disabled people to deliver disability training to Victoria Police, as people with lived experience bring clarity and personal understanding to this training.

Recommendation 16:  

DFFH’s Guidelines for Disability Service Providers and Victoria Police are reviewed by persons with lived disability experience to ensure they reflect the social and human rights models of disability.

Recommendation 17:  

Mandate a requirement to make reasonable adjustments for disabled young people to ensure that access to supports and adjustments is not discretionary.

Recommendation 18:  

Amend Victoria Police guidelines to ensure mandatory breaks for all disabled persons brought in for questioning.

Recommendation 19:  

Legislate the Independent Third Person Program to ensure that disabled young people can access this support irrespective of their disability, age or location, or whether they are an alleged offender, victim or witness.

Recommendation 20:  

Refine and expand the Embedded Youth Outreach Program so that it is delivered across each LGA in the State.

Recommendation 21:  

Resource the youth sector to work in the community alongside police in general, with a view to improving service referral outcomes for young people.


Recommendation 22: 

Extend eligibility for diversion programs to all children and young people, regardless of their offence, in line with Australia's obligation to ensure detention is a last resort.

Recommendation 23:  

Urgently review the Children's Court Youth Diversion Service (CCYD) as per the Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030, and publish the findings no later than May 2022.

Early intervention 

Recommendation 24:  

Resource community- and place-based partnerships with schools and service providers which support young people and their families holistically.

Recommendation 25:  

Embed targeted poverty alleviation strategies across policy development, noting the role of poverty alleviation in reducing young people’s contact with the criminal justice system.

Services and support systems in prison 

Recommendation 26:  

“TAFE should be available on-site in Malmsbury, offering courses like Trade, Construction, Engineering and Business Management.” - quoted by a young person with lived experience of the youth justice system.

Recommendation 27:  

Urgently implement all nine recommendations from the Victorian Auditor-General Office’s ‘Managing Rehabilitation Services in Youth Detention’ report.

Recommendation 28:  

Ensure continuity of support for young people in transition between Parkville and Malmsbury centres.

Recommendation 29:  

Embed family, cultural and community support at every stage to keep children connected within safe, supportive networks.

Recommendation 30:  

Involve young people with lived experience of the justice system in co-designing communication guidelines for youth justice workers, including for when workers are reassigned, and for workers in the legal sector more broadly.

Recommendation 31:  

Set FTE targets to hire a certain number of youth justice workers with lived experience of the justice system in each of Victoria’s youth detention centres.

Recommendation 32:  

Train youth justice workers in key youth work skills, particularly around youth engagement and participation.

Recommendation 33:  

Develop and trial participatory activities for young people in detention.

Recommendation 34:  

Increase funding of disability support service providers for persons with disability in the criminal justice system to ensure disabled young people who are ineligible for the NDIS can access support.

Recommendation 35:  

Embed and resource Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to operate inside youth detention centres and lead the health and wellbeing treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in custody.

Recommendation 36:  

Ensure all services in detention are person-centred, trauma-informed and support the young person’s journey through the service system when entering and exiting prison.

Beyond prison: preventing recidivism 

Recommendation 37:  

Research and co-design a transitional support system for young people exiting detention with structured, legitimate activities and therapeutic models of support as primary objectives.

Recommendation 38:  

Provide paid work opportunities for young people in detention in order to facilitate their economic participation after release.

Recommendation 39:  

Implement a co-design model for parole conditions so that young people feel ownership and agency over their futures.

Recommendation 40:  

Establish a trial halfway house option for young people to support their transition out of the justice system through wraparound support.

Recommendation 41:  

Expand ‘dual track’ eligibility to all young offenders aged 25 and under, noting the ongoing psychological, emotional and social growth which characterises this age period. 

Recommendation 42:  

Ensure all young offenders aged 25 and under, whether in adult or juvenile detention, have access to age-specific case management which  supports them to achieve milestones such as completing education, securing employment and acquiring housing.

Recommendation 43:

Raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

Read more about YACVic’s position on raising the age of criminal responsibility

Authors: Mark Yin, Young Peer Facilitator and Annelise Moller, YDAS Policy Officer