Young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups are overrepresented in Youth Justice, particularly those from Sudanese, Maori and Pacific Islander backgrounds.

Delivering effective interventions and services, and delivering real change to the overrepresentation of CALD young people in Youth Justice, requires an understanding of the specific risk factors for these groups, the role and structure of their families and communities, their customs and beliefs and their history, including any history of trauma.

We heard from Sudanese, Maori and Pacific Islander community members and young people of the importance of family and community involvement and for Youth Justice staff, programs and interventions, and supports and services to reflect an understanding of their cultural backgrounds. Both groups told us that families need to better understand and be involved in the system in order to help young people stay out of the courts and Youth Justice.

Beyond the current context, tackling CALD overrepresentation in Youth Justice in the longer term – regardless of prevailing cultural and ethnic demographics – requires an understanding of the sociodemographic factors and social disadvantage that contribute to offending. This includes an understanding of the effects of intergenerational trauma and social and economic exclusion, as well as the need for strong family and community supports to build prosocial connections.

For these reasons, we will undertake priority work to:

  • Explore opportunities to partner with organisations and institutions to undertake contemporary research to deepen our understanding of the different cultural contexts of CALD children and young people in Youth Justice, and their families and communities, and what interventions and supports will be most effective at preventing and reducing their further offending.
  • Consider opportunities to examine individual cases of Sudanese children and young people in Youth Justice to identify ways to strengthen their supports, and supports for their families, and identify and address the issues contributing to their overrepresentation.
  • Establish separate Sudanese and Maori and Pacific Islander advisory forums to inform Youth Justice of key issues facing these communities and how best to support young people and their families in Youth Justice.

The key actions for each reform direction listed below will be informed by the outcomes of this priority work to better understand and connect with Sudanese, Maori and Pacific Islander young people, their families and communities.


Improving diversion and supporting early intervention and crime prevention

  • Review, reform and redesign diversion, crime prevention and early intervention services so they more specifically address the risks, needs and strengths of CALD children and young people. This will include engaging with CALD children and young people, and their communities, to reform the:
    • Children’s Court Youth Diversion Service to promote the diversion away from Youth Justice and into community networks and services.
    • Youth Justice Group Conferencing Service to promote engagement with restorative processes.
    • Youth Support Service to ensure the program effectively engages children and young people from CALD backgrounds early and before they enter Youth Justice, and supports them to connect with family, education, training and employment.
  • Consider options to build on Community Support Groups to assist with the diversion of and early intervention with children and young people from CALD backgrounds, and prevent crime. These locally based groups are currently working with the Sudanese community to support families and link young people with programs and activities including education, training, employment pathways, health and mental health services, and sport and recreation.

Reducing reoffending and promoting community safety by supporting children and young people to turn their lives around

Put cultural factors at the centre of assessment and case planning (including transition planning on exit from custody) as part of Youth Justice’s new case management framework. This will include clear practice guidance to support case managers to better understand what has driven CALD young people’s contact with the system and how to communicate and engage effectively to support rehabilitation efforts.

  • Deliver targeted and intensive interventions in partnership with community providers, including by:
    • Delivering family therapies like Multi-systemic Therapy and Functional Family Therapy to build awareness among CALD families and parents about balancing cultural obligations with the experiences of young people growing up in a different culture to that of their parents.
    • Reviewing and reforming the Youth Justice Community Support Service to embed cultural responsivity as a key component of this intensive case management service, having regard to the voices of CALD children and young people and their communities.
    • Delivering new youth offending programs with cultural responsivity as a core component, which will help us to create more effective interventions for CALD children and young people.
  • Review the existing cultural program offering in custody to assess their effectiveness and to inform their delivery in the future, including opportunities for cultural-specific mentors and supports.
  • Continue to focus on children and young people from CALD backgrounds who are at high risk of offending through multidisciplinary and cross-sector collaborative efforts to ensure effective service delivery responses.

Strengthening partnerships with children and young people, families and all services and professionals who support their rehabilitation and positive development

  • Support the Department of Education and Training to deliver culturally responsive teaching and vocational training at Parkville College to better ensure teaching practices respond to students’ cultural needs and students have access to cultural education. This will support improved educational engagement and strengthen reintegration prospects.
  • As part of a new partnering agreement between the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and Youth Justice, address system-level barriers to employment faced by CALD young people in Youth Justice.
  • Support the Children’s Court in its efforts to provide cultural guides to make the court process easier to understand for families of Sudanese young people, including through its current Sudanese Cultural Support Pilot.

Investing in a skilled, safe and stable Youth Justice system, and safe systems of work

  • Attract and recruit a representative workforce by engaging Sudanese, Maori and Pacific Islander communities and encouraging them to take up a career in Youth Justice.
  • Undertake dedicated training for Youth Justice staff to equip them with the skills to work more effectively with children and young people from CALD backgrounds. This will include:
    • Training community and custodial staff in culturally appropriate and responsive case management as part of a future program of case management training.
    • Training custodial staff in the custodial operating philosophy, which has a key principle ensuring culturally strong and safe responses.
  • Support culturally appropriate practices in custody, including through:
    • Dedicated cultural liaison officers to support custodial staff to engage with children and young people from Sudanese, Maori and Pacific Islander backgrounds.
    • Developing and embedding a new practice framework for custodial staff, with guidance on child-centred, trauma-informed practice for CALD young people.
    • Ensuring that behaviour support in custody is culturally appropriate and assists staff to work more effectively with CALD young people.
  • Consider options to provide further whole-ofsystem support for CALD young people and staff, across the spectrum of a young person’s contact with Youth Justice.