The Victorian Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee yesterday released the final report from its Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria. Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), the state’s youth peak body, welcomes the report’s examination of the big issues impacting on our youth justice centres and the surrounding system, including:
- the pressure of high remand numbers,
- the role of diversion programs, cultures and practices in youth justice centres,
- the need to improve relationships between staff and young people.
YACVic testified to this inquiry in April 2017, supporting a young person with lived experience of the youth justice system to also present to the committee. We are pleased that the committee’s report has reproduced many key points from our submission, including:
- the need for staff at youth justice centres to be better supported to build stable, trusting, positive relationships with young people,
- the need for high quality options to divert young people from the system,
- support for Victoria’s ‘dual track’ system, which allows adult courts to sentence young offenders (aged under 21 years) to serve sentences in youth detention instead of adult prison.
We also welcome the report’s calls for other improvements, including recommendations for:
- schools to explore how they might support students at risk of entering the justice system by using successful education strategies for young people in custody used by Parkville College,
- court processes and language to made be clearer to young people, so they properly understand what is happening,
- new programs to address the over-representation in the youth justice system of young people from out-of-home care and refugee and migrant backgrounds,
- mentoring programs to rehabilitate young offenders,
- broadened assessment procedures for young people entering youth justice centres, to include additional factors such as developmental age and cognitive development,
- more effective post-release services for young people who have spent time in a youth justice centre to help reduce the risk of reoffending.
However, we are disappointed the report contains only one recommendation specific to Aboriginal young people, given their vast over-representation in the system.
YACVic will continue to advocate for an age-appropriate, therapeutic youth justice system that rehabilitates young offenders, diverting young people away from entering youth justice centres wherever possible.
Further comment: Leo Fieldgrass – CEO Youth Affairs Council Victoria – 0439 254 667 or [email protected].