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Young people’s voices must be heard on justice

A report released today by the Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit brings the incredibly important views of young people into the current discussion about the State’s youth justice system and community safety.

Speaking Out About Youth Justice is based on detailed interviews with 92 young people in detention or on community-based supervision orders, and ten of their family members.

“What these young people say about their lives and of their hopes for the future is at times distressing but also demonstrates their incredible insight and resilience,” Mr Pettit said.

“Young people named family dysfunction – particularly ingrained criminal activity, alcohol and drug abuse, a lack of structure and boundaries, family violence and mental health issues – as the dominant factor that led to their participation in crime.

“These young people do not want to be in this situation and they are desperate for the right type of support that will help them create a positive future.”

“I want a life for myself and I want a job when I get out of [Banksia Hill] cos I’m sick of it. Like, this life we live is not sustainable, if you get what I mean. Like, we can’t keep going the way we go. You can’t keep on doing crime, cos this is the way we end up, in here.”  teenage female in detention

Mr Pettit said young people were clear about the supports that will help them break the cycle of crime.

“I do not condone illegal or anti-social behaviour and it is important for young people, like everyone else, to repay the community for any offence they commit, but this must be achieved by addressing the underlying causes of their behaviour.

“Young people spoke in detail about the need for safe and stable homes, structure and boundaries in their lives, education and community participation.

“They also highlighted the importance of trusting, long-term relationships with family and other adults such as youth justice workers, teachers and police as key in sustaining positive change in their lives. 

Aboriginal young people are significantly over-represented in the youth justice system and the Aboriginal young people consulted described the importance of staying connected to culture and Country to help them stay out of trouble. 

“There is no simple fix to the complex issues young people describe, but their views and ideas provide vital information in our work to help these young people and create a safer, more cohesive society.

“I will be advocating strongly for the agencies that work with these young people to respond to the views and findings expressed in this report.”

Mr Pettit thanked the Department of Corrective Services for collaborating on this consultation project.

“I particularly thank the 92 young people and 10 family members who were interviewed for this consultation – their generosity and courage in speaking about their lives is incredibly important and appreciated.”