Youth justice set for systemic reform through an Aboriginal lens

News 25 February 2022

The Commission for Children and Young People welcomes the Victorian Government’s response to Our youth, our way inquiry following the launch of the Wirkara Kulpa Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy.

‘The response and strategy together mark a significant shift towards comprehensive reform of the state’s youth justice system based on the voices and views of Aboriginal children and young people’, said Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, today.

‘With a strong emphasis on self-determination, and connection to community and culture, the response and strategy have the potential to profoundly benefit Aboriginal children and young people, who continue to be starkly over-represented in youth justice supervision and detention in Victoria.

'The Commission welcomes a greater focus on prevention, early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation.

Wirkara Kulpa is Victoria’s first Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy and I particularly commend government’s explicit aim, as set out in the strategy, of seeing no Aboriginal child in the youth justice system,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

Wirkara Kulpa draws deeply on the findings and recommendations of Our youth, our way which calls for a reimagined system that protects the rights of Aboriginal children and young people and supports them to thrive. Our youth, our way is grounded in the voices of Aboriginal children and young people, communities and organisations – including the 13 statewide community consultations conducted by the Our youth, our way inquiry and associated Koori Youth Justice Taskforce.

Of the 75 recommendations in Our youth, our way, 56 will be implemented through Wirkapa Kulpa, with a further 11 recommendations being accepted, and eight recommendations being under review.

Many of the recommendations are directly reflected in the strategy. They will see Aboriginal children in youth justice have a real say in the design and delivery of youth justice services. Trusted workers will provide them with continuity and support in navigating the system to better meet their needs. More residential bail support and on-country alternatives to remand will see fewer Aboriginal children remanded in detention. Families will be more involved in youth justice processes, and improved early intervention support for children and families will be available. Initiatives to divert 10–13-year-olds from youth justice will prevent more children and young people becoming entrenched in the system. These measures will be complemented by a range of improvements to cultural safety in youth justice centres.

The eight Our youth, our way recommendations still under review by government remain critical in addressing over-representation of Aboriginal children in the justice system.

‘Raising the age of criminal responsibility, bail reform and a review of police powers to ensure police are not systemically targeting Aboriginal children remain as urgent priorities for action.

‘These further reforms are vital if we are to realise the overall vision for systemic change, and the Commission is committed to working with government to ensure they are progressed,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

The processes and consultations that have informed the report will be central to this further work, and the Commission will be monitoring and reporting on progress, together with progress towards the report’s broader recommendations.

We look forward to continuing this vital work in consultation with the Aboriginal Justice Forum, the Aboriginal Children’s Forum, Aboriginal organisations, advocates, communities, families and children and young people who have all driven the significant progress to date.

‘The Commission is pleased to see the impact of Aboriginal children and young people's voices on Wirkara Kulpa and the adoption of many recommendations from Our youth, our way. These reforms are necessary as we move to end the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system by 2031,’ Commissioner Buchanan concluded.


Wirkara Kulpa Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy
Victorian Government response to Our youth, our way
Our youth, our way

Commissioner Buchanan is available for media comment.