The Commissioner for Children and Young People has called for urgent action to address the concerning lack of coordination and use of youth justice diversion programs for young people identified in the Auditor General’s report released yesterday.
Commissioner Colin Pettit said the priority for dealing with young people who come into contact with police and the courts should be to identify and address the underlying causes of their offending behaviour.
“Detention of young people, while at times necessary, must be our absolute last resort and the effective and consistent use of diversion programs is a vitally important strategy that produces better results for young people and the community,” Mr Pettit said.
“I am very concerned about several findings of the Auditor's report, particularly the lower rates of diversion for Aboriginal children and young people.
“As a community we lament the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in our youth justice system and wonder why we are not making progress, but the lower rates of diversion is an example of why this occurs.
“We simply must get better at developing and coordinating programs that support vulnerable children and young people who are coming to the attention of police, which are focused on prevention, diversion and rehabilitation.
Mr Pettit said his office’s consultation with young people in the youth justice system in 2016 made it very clear that support to address personal and social issues that lead young people into criminal behaviour is vital to stop them offending.
This includes support with family problems such as drug and alcohol abuse and violence, but also support to re-engage with education and to address mental health and disability issues like FASD.
“We know evidence-based and culturally-appropriate diversion programs reduce the likelihood of young people re-offending, yet we are still not using them effectively, nor are we making them broadly available in regional and remote areas.
“I will be monitoring the response to this report and look forward to seeing some real progress in addressing these issues which impact on the whole community."
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