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Parliamentary Inquiry into Youth Justice centres in Victoria

We welcome the report into youth justice centres tabled by the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament

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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Commission for Children and Young People welcomes the report into youth justice centres in Victoria, tabled today by the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament.

The Committee’s report confirms that much work is needed to improve Victoria’s youth justice system and ensure youth justice centres are safe, humane and effective in stopping recidivism. 

'I acknowledge the Committee's efforts and applaud their approach in listening to a range of experts about current challenges and options for change,' Principal Commissioner Liana Buchanan said. 'I trust this inquiry will drive further effort and investment to tackle the long-standing and significant problems in youth justice centres; these problems continue to impact children and young people, staff and the wider community.'

The report adds to the growing body of evidence about what works in youth justice. Many of its findings and recommendations reflect observations made in other inquiries, including The same four walls, tabled by the Commission in March 2017.

'I am pleased to see the Committee’s emphasis on understanding and addressing the underlying causes of youth crime and an acknowledgement that excessively punitive measures create unrest rather than reducing offending. The sooner our youth justice system reflects these findings, the better,' Ms Buchanan said. 

The report's findings reinforce the need for a range of improvements, including:

  • greater opportunities for diversion
  • better responses to children and young people with mental health and substance abuse problems
  • stronger rehabilitative programs and a greater focus on transition support
  • a focus on the rising numbers of children and young people on remand
  • development of positive, professional relationships between staff and young people as central to creating a safe, stable and rehabilitative system
  • serious efforts to tackle the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in youth justice centres.

The report also highlights the need for adequate staffing levels in youth justice centres and for staff to be well trained, including in de-escalating violence and applying therapeutic models. The Commission's ongoing monitoring activity shows these areas remain in need of attention.

The Commission supports the Committee's view that strong, independent oversight of youth justice centres is vital. The Commission has increased oversight of youth justice centres in recent years and looks forward to the full implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

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