Youth justice is at a crossroads in Australia. In every state and territory across the nation, governments are grappling with youth justice issues as they seek to reduce crime, improve community safety and respond to public concern that is being fanned by sensationalised media coverage.
In order to inform the discussions around youth justice in Australia, Jesuit Social Services decided to look outside our borders for potential solutions. Some of the senior leaders of our organisation undertook an international #JusticeSolutions study tour, taking in parts of Norway, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. We visited detention facilities and diversion programs and talked with their managers and staff. We also met with senior justice personnel, non-profit service providers, academics and youth justice advocates.
In this presentation, we will set the scene for youth justice in Australia, outlining challenges, offending and recidivism trends, as well as reports of abuse that are taking place nation-wide. In response, we offer the learnings from our #JusticeSolutions tour, detailing overseas successes as they relate to prevention and diversion, assessment, detention, transition and reintegration, education, workforce capability, social infrastructure and evidence-based policy.
Based on the learnings from our international tour, as well as our 40 years’ experience working in justice, we propose the key principles for a good youth justice system that should be adopted and put into action by stakeholders and governments across Australia.
Jesuit Social Services
General Manager, Policy and Advocacy
Biography: Jesuit Social Services has been working for more than 40 years delivering practical support and advocating for improved policies to achieve strong, cohesive and vibrant communities where every individual can play their role and flourish. We work with some of the most marginalised individuals and communities, often experiencing multiple and complex challenges. We work where the need is acute and there is the greatest capacity for change. 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.