This reform direction involves early intervention and diverting children and young people from the criminal justice system by addressing the causes of their offending behaviours.
This means coordination between police and the broader service system to address developmental needs and factors such as childhood trauma, family violence, health issues, housing insecurity and other forms of disadvantage.
This will ensure that children and young people who experience disadvantage have their needs met in the community, rather than defaulting to the youth justice system.
When young people do have contact with police and the criminal justice system, we must ensure there are effective cautioning and diversion processes in place to reduce further offending, including through the Children’s Court Youth Diversion Service. Appropriate cautioning processes should provide children and young people with early access to health and social supports, as well as ongoing connection to education. Similarly, effective diversion practices encourage young people to take responsibility for their behaviour and understand the harm they have caused, while preventing them from forming early associations with the criminal justice system.
- Supporting the effective diversion of young people from contact with police and the criminal justice system, and encouraging them to take responsibility for their behaviour
- Delivering quality court advice to inform bail decisions and delivering effective support and supervision to young people on bail
- Supporting effective whole-of-government and community efforts to intervene early with young people who experience disadvantage and are at risk of offending, and to minimise their contact with the justice system.
Supporting effective diversion and crime prevention efforts
Youth Justice already diverts young people who engage in lower-level offending to targeted local support services. More than half of young people involved in offending incidents are cautioned by police, and there have been more than 4,600 diversions overseen by the Children’s Court Youth Diversion Service since it commenced as a statewide service in January 2017. This service has been enshrined in legislation and strengthens a young person’s existing relationships and community connections.
The success of diversionary work is reflected in the continuing decline in young people being sentenced in the Children’s Court and young people on community-based Youth Justice orders.
The Children’s Court Youth Diversion Service works closely with the statewide Education Justice Initiative, which assisted 829 young people appearing in the Children’s Court in 2018–19, including the Children’s Koori Court, to reengage with education.
Youth Justice will work with Victoria Police, the courts and community agencies to maintain a strong diversionary focus, so that young people are diverted from Youth Justice and receive the supports and services they need, in the place they live. This includes Youth Justice community case managers working with the Department of Education and Training through local schools and regional supports to ensure children and young people are engaged in learning.
This diversionary focus is even more important for children aged 10 to 14. We must ensure they do not progress further into the youth justice system.
Key actions 2020–2024
Youth Justice will:
- Support young people to take responsibility for their behaviour and the harm caused through the state wide Children’s Court Youth Diversion Service. This includes developing a diversion plan that may involve engaging young people on the emotional and physical harm they have caused to victims, writing a letter of apology to the victim or coordinating their reengagement with family and school.
- Review the statewide Children’s Court Youth Diversion Service by 2021 to ensure it is delivering the right outcomes for young people, their families, victims and the community. This will include addressing overrepresented groups.
- Support the work of the more than 3,000 extra police in Victoria, including to increase connections with community and engage and divert young people from the system early, wherever they may be in the state.
- Support proactive police cautions and Victoria Police’s current Embedded Youth Outreach Project to provide additional support for at-risk and vulnerable young people encountering the criminal justice system. This project involves police teaming up with youth workers to provide immediate assessment and response to young people.
- Help Victoria Police reduce the number of Aboriginal children and young people coming into Youth Justice through the Koori Youth Cautioning Program, developed with community as part of Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja.
- Give young people and their families the support they need, in their community, to stay out of the youth justice system through a review and strengthening of the Youth Support Service and Aboriginal Youth Support Service.
- Participate in the national review of the age of criminal responsibility through the Council of Attorneys-General. This process will include investigating alternatives to custody for this cohort, and in particular for Aboriginal children aged 10 to 14 years, who make up almost one-quarter of all children aged 10 to 14 under supervision.
Delivering quality court advice to inform bail decisions and effective bail support and supervision
Young people who are alleged to be involved in more serious offences may be supervised by Youth Justice, including through supervised or intensive bail, or remand. Youth Justice provides community supervision options as an alternative to remand, particularly for children aged 10 to 14 years.
Youth Justice is committed to supporting the courts by giving decision makers quality advice to inform appropriate and timely bail decisions. Our case managers, the Youth Justice Court Advice Service (during business hours) and the Central After Hours Assessment and Bail Placement Service (after hours) are critical to ensure young people receive the right bail outcome for their circumstances.
Key actions 2020–2024
Youth Justice will:
- Review the court advice service to strengthen the quality of advice provided by Youth Justice to the courts. This will give courts relevant and timely information so they can consider each child’s and young person’s risks and needs.
- Strengthen supports for young people on bail to ensure they receive the services and interventions they need so they can meet their bail conditions and minimise future contact. This will involve:
- young people on supervised and intensive bail having a dedicated community case manager to provide intensive supervision and coordinate services, supports and interventions. This includes supporting family reconnection, links to stable accommodation, engagement in education, training and employment, and links to services to have their health, wellbeing and mental health needs met
- complementary intensive case management provided through the Youth Justice Community Support Service
- for Aboriginal young people, working collaboratively with Aboriginal community controlled organisations, to strengthen the child’s and young person’s connection to family, culture and country through their cultural plan.
- Reduce remand numbers by analysing the factors contributing to current rates of remand. This remand-drivers project aims to prevent young people entering remand where it is appropriate and safe to do so. It will also provide an alternative intensive service response for those who do need to be remanded, so they can be supported to reintegrate with the community.
- Minimise time spent on remand by supporting the courts to make efficient bail decisions and determine matters as quickly as possible through the Fast Track Remand Court.
- Maximise the supports available on remand by expanding non–offence specific programs to make the most of the time young people spend on remand. The programs cover anger management, emotional regulation, healthy relationships, communication skills, alcohol and drug issues and alcohol and drug treatment readiness support.
Supporting effective whole-of-government and community early intervention efforts
Effective early responses can address disadvantage and inequality and prevent a young person’s escalation in offending and contact with the criminal justice system. While Youth Justice does not directly control many of these opportunities for early intervention, we engage with other government and community organisations to boost supports for at-risk children and young people. This builds on young people’s strengths and positive family, cultural and community connections.
Key actions 2020–2024
Youth Justice will work with other parts of government and the community to:
- Support implementation of Education State reforms to prevent children and young people entering the youth justice system. These reforms include delivering Three-Year-Old kindergarten, the statewide Navigator Program to increase engagement for unenrolled and disengaged young people, reducing expulsion rates through improved expulsion processes, and providing education support and information at the Children’s Court through the Education Justice Initiative to steer young people towards enrolment in schools and vocational courses.
- Support the transformation of the child and family system under The Roadmap for Reform: strong families, safe children and Ending family violence: Victoria’s plan for change.
- Support delivery of government’s new crime prevention strategy, to prevent and intervene early to help young people avoid offending and any contact with police, the courts or Youth Justice. This includes assessing and refining the Out for Good job-pathway model, considering opportunities to build and expand programs that seek to keep young people engaged in education and ensuring access to early intervention support services to vulnerable young people across Victoria.
- Fund community-led initiatives to address offending and recidivism by young people who have had contact, or are at risk of involvement, with the criminal justice system
- Support Victoria Police to identify and respond to young people at risk of radicalising or engaging in violent extremism, including responding to the parts of the Expert Panel on Terrorism and Violent Extremism Prevention and Response Powers reports relevant to Youth Justice.