Youth justice is at a crossroads in Australia and all governments are grappling with complicated issues, often within charged political environments.

In Victoria, rarely a day goes by without news of youth offending being splashed across front pages. In response to some high profile youth offending, public concern is reaching a crescendo, while politicians seek to outdo each other with promises to crack down on crime and punish the perpetrators. Yet these cries are based on a false reality - youth crime is not rising, but falling.

Youth crime in Victoria is being politicised like never before and risks undermining what was once an innovative and successful youth justice system. This has played out through several concerning developments including the detention of young people in an adult prison and a commitment to build a new, large-scale maximum security youth prison, which flies against best-practice in youth detention.

As policy took a sharp turn for the worse, Jesuit Social Services also found traditional avenues to influence blocked or difficult to access. In an effort to stem the tide of change and improve outcomes for all Victorians, including young offenders, Jesuit Social Services designed and implemented a sophisticated political and public campaign focused on the November State election and following state budget.

This presentation will illustrate the stark shift in public narrative around youth justice in Victoria, the corresponding policy changes and Jesuit Social Services’ coordinated approach including both inside lane and public campaigning to influence better outcomes for all.

Andrew Yule
Jesuit Social Services
General Manager, Strategic Communications & Engagement

Biography: Andrew is General Manager Strategic Communication and Engagement for Jesuit Social Services and has more than 15 years’ experience working for social change organisations including The Brotherhood of St Laurence, Anglicare Victoria and in his current role. Andrew is passionate about connecting the lived experience of vulnerable and marginalised Australians with sound policy and research to advocate for long term change. Andrew has taken a senior role in campaigns to improve child protection, youth and adult justice services, mental health services, training and employment services and access to affordable housing. Recently, Andrew worked closely with Catholic Social Services Australia and authors Tony Vinson and Margot Rawsthorne to produce and disseminate Dropping off the Edge 2015 – a sequel to the seminal 2007 publication Dropping off the Edge.

Our services span Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory where we support more than 57,000 individuals and families. Our service delivery and advocacy focus on the following key areas:
• Justice and crime prevention – people involved with the justice system
• Mental health and wellbeing – people with multiple and complex needs and those affected by suicide, trauma and complex bereavement
• Settlement and community building – recently arrived immigrants and refugees, and disadvantaged communities
• Education, training and employment – people with barriers to sustainable employment.

Research, advocacy and policy are coordinated across all program and major interest areas of Jesuit Social Services. Our advocacy is grounded in the knowledge, expertise and experiences of program staff and participants, as well as academic research and evidence. We seek to influence policies, practices, legislation and budget investment to positively influence participants’ lives and improve approaches to address long term social challenges. We do this by working collaboratively with the community sector to build coalitions and alliances around key issues, and building strong relationships with key decision-makers and the community.

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