Staff in Youth Justice undertake complex and challenging work. They must be safe and empowered to effectively perform their roles. To do this there must exist safe systems of work across Youth Justice’s operations and a culture of workplace safety.

A capable and high-performing workforce will ensure that young people in Youth Justice are in the best position to turn their lives around and not reoffend.


  1. Delivering an end-to-end Youth Justice workforce plan, focusing on attraction, retention and the professional development of the workforce.
  2. Continuing a proactive approach to attract and retain workers, including through rewards and improving recognition.
  3. Strengthening professional learning opportunities and pre-service training.
  4. Strengthening health and safety, embedding safe systems of work, and promoting safe environments.

Delivering an end-to-end workforce plan

An effective and highly skilled Youth Justice workforce is the most important ingredient in addressing the offending needs of young people.

This means we must focus on both the community and custodial Youth Justice workforces, including how they work in partnership with other professionals and settings.

Key actions 2020–2024

Youth Justice will:

  • Develop a workforce plan by the end of 2020 to improve each stage of our employees’ experience with Youth Justice. This will focus on the right settings to:
    • attract, recruit and retain the workforce
    • focus on professionalisation and quality of practice
    • build the workforce’s multidisciplinary engagement and understanding of how they work with other professionals to address needs.

Continuing proactive recruitment and retention initiatives

We need to make sure prospective employees – and the community more broadly – know the value of the work we do in Youth Justice. Our workforce has a real impact on the lives of children and young people, helping them get back on track.

We also need to give new staff the training they need to do their job well and thrive in their roles.

Key actions 2020–2024

Youth Justice will:

  • Continue the proactive recruitment campaign so that the community understands the nature of our work. This supports prospective staff to make an informed decision about a career in Youth Justice.
  • Refine our recruitment approach for custodial staff to make sure we get the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles.
  • Develop an employee value proposition to strengthen and better target our recruitment drivers.
  • Focus on attracting a more representative workforce to better reflect and support the young people in Youth Justice, including engaging both Aboriginal communities and specific CALD communities to encourage more Aboriginal people, as well as Sudanese and Maori and Pacific Islander people, to take up a career in Youth Justice. It also means a focus on attracting a more diverse and inclusive workforce, including engaging more people with disability and LGBTIQ staff.
  • Introduce a reward and recognition scheme to acknowledge and reflect our appreciation of the exceptional and complex work our community and custodial staff undertake.
  • In custodial services, introduce more structured and regular communication between staff and senior managers, including through a Youth Justice Custodial Reform Committee, staff town halls, and through exit interviews to better understand why some staff leave, so that we can continuously improve the workforce experience.
  • Engage in a pilot project in partnership with the University of South Australia, WorkSafe and the Community and Public Sector Union to improve the mental health and wellbeing of custodial staff. We will use the results of staff surveys to introduce targeted initiatives that support staff health and wellbeing by recognising and responding to their needs and the challenging nature of their work.

Strengthening professional learning opportunities and pre-service training

Supporting staff with the skills they need to do their job effectively, including building their behaviour support skills, is critical to engendering relational security and delivering effective interventions to young people.

Key actions 2020–2024

Youth Justice will:

  • Maximise opportunities for multidisciplinary skills exchange between Youth Justice staff and community service workforces. This will support our staff to build their capability, including across mental health, disability and culturally appropriate practices, to more effectively rehabilitate and improve the behaviours of young people.
  • Conduct operational debriefs and root cause analysis of serious incidents and create a culture of learning and improving.
  • Embed behavioural support in both the Parkville and Malmsbury precincts. This will support custodial staff to engage and work effectively with complex young people, trauma-informed practice, debriefing and reflective practice, de-escalation techniques, and evidence-based and person-centred interventions.
  • Equip staff with the training and skills they need to understand the complexities of, and trauma often experienced by, young people in custody, and to anticipate, defuse and respond effectively to challenging behaviours. Youth Justice will also consider options for a potential new vocational qualification for custodial staff to support their skills and training needs, and enable better mobility and career pathways across a range of social services and systems.
  • Train our new community staff in a mixture of theoretical and on-the-job learning (including shadow shifts), covering modules on conducting risk and needs assessments, undertaking case management, court and sentencing practices, Aboriginal cultural awareness and safety, CALD and disability awareness.
  • Train our new custodial staff in a range of modules spanning negotiation, communication and engagement with young people, situational awareness, relational and dynamic security, Aboriginal cultural awareness and safety, culturally appropriate interventions and supports, mental health, trauma, suicide and self-harm, substance use and disability, incident management, and LGBTIQ inclusivity.
  • Strengthen supervision skills and enhanced risk management approaches for our custodial unit supervisors through the Supervisor’s Leadership Program.
  • Support the professional development of community general managers to provide practice and strategic leadership to their staff.
  • Train all custodial staff in emergency response training, situational awareness and the ACE (Achieve, Challenge, Encourage) behaviour management model. This will improve the effectiveness of incident response, prevent the escalation of incidents and incentivise good behaviour in children and young people.

Strengthening health and safety, embedding safe systems of work and promoting safe environments

Youth Justice staff work in complex, challenging and demanding environments. Health and safety in the workplace is fundamental. Youth Justice is committed to building a safety culture and safe systems of work, and preventing occupational violence, across its community and custodial operations, as well as ensuring safe environments for children and young people.

Key actions 2020–2024

Youth Justice will develop an occupational violence prevention strategy to support a safe and healthy workplace for all staff, promote a safety culture and safe systems of work, and safeguard children and young people from violence. The strategy will bring together a number of reforms outlined in other parts of this strategic plan, including the delivery of:

  • Enhanced induction and learning and development for staff, through a focus on training and skills for new recruits and existing staff in custody, further case management training, and behaviour support in custody.
  • Key operational reforms, namely implementing a new ‘communities in custody’ approach for configuring the custodial system, supported by differentiated operating models and single entry point, and introducing an intensive intervention unit into the system.
  • Strengthened youth offending programs, services and interventions, and strengthened case management to better identify and respond to the individual risks and needs of each child and young person under the supervision of Youth Justice.
  • Key infrastructure actions, including the new facility at Cherry Creek and future interim three precinct configuration, and additional capacity at Parkville and Malmsbury in the meantime.

In addition, Youth Justice will also:

  • Communicate critical information to staff at the start of the day, including safety alerts, movements of young people across the precinct, incidents, and behaviour management plans.
  • Implement dynamic risk assessments in custody, enabling custodial staff to make informed staffing and placement decisions based on the prevailing security environment.
  • Embed the Staff Wellbeing Program in custodial services, including providing a dedicated health and wellbeing team to support the physical and mental health of staff. The program will help manage psychological health and stress and provide mental health support and access to individual counselling and crisis support.
  • Introduce and strengthen mentoring and coaching opportunities for new staff. This includes engaging squad leaders to lead, support and guide new starters through induction and pre-service training processes, and mentors to provide practical training on the ground to staff in their new role.
  • Continue a peer support program for Youth Justice custodial staff. The program is available to all custodial staff who are experiencing work or personal challenges and need assistance to navigate more formal pathways of support. It is an extension of the Staff Wellbeing Program, and complements other departmental employee support services such as clinical and operational supervision, and the Employee Assistance Program. All peer support workers have a comprehensive understanding of confidentiality, role boundaries and skills in personal support and referral.
  • Trial ways to build relational trust with young people in custody, including restorative approaches.