Our Opinion

Queensland Government Youth Justice Strategy 2019-2023 – Working Together Changing the Story

On Tuesday 11th December, the Queensland Government released its Working Together Changing the Story Youth Justice Strategy 2019-2023. The strategy is a response to the government-commissioned independent review of youth justice – Report on Youth Justice – delivered by Mr Bob Atkinson AO APM in June 2018 and the recent report on youth development and youth crime in Townsville by Major General (retired) Stuart Smith, and aligns with the Queensland Government’s Our Future State commitments to reduce youth offending and reduce crime victimisation.

The Youth Justice Strategy seeks to balance the Government’s commitment to community safety with accountability for offending and reforming the youth justice system to focus on prevention, early intervention, diversionary responses and less reliance on custodial approaches, in line with national and international evidence about the most effective measures to reduce youth offending. The strategy links to a suite of other strategies in areas of family support, early years, education, health and mental health, substance misuse, disability, housing, sport and recreation, domestic and family violence prevention, training and employment.

The Government has committed to work collaboratively to support community-led initiatives to ‘change the story’ for communities and for young people who have offended. Key initiatives include re-establishing restorative justice conferencing between young people and victims of their offences, extension of the Transition 2 Success program, an alternative education and training program, and additional youth bail support and advocacy services.

A whole of government detailed action plan is to be developed by mid-2019 to deliver the Youth Justice Strategy. Implementation will be overseen by a cross-agency senior executive group and a reference group of community leaders, sector representatives and experts, with both groups reporting to the Minister responsible for youth justice.

Peak Care looks forward to continuing our partnership with government and non-government agencies in the next important phase of action planning.

Matters requiring focussed attention

Matters preliminarily identified by PeakCare as requiring focussed attention during the action planning phase include:

  • More investment in specialist responses to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation
  • Further investigation/evaluation of existing community initiatives briefly showcased in the strategy which appear to be having successes
  • Further investigation of more effective responses to very young children who have offended (even if offences are serious) in preference to a custodial response
  • Development of targeted age-appropriate responses for 16-17yr olds to support their transition from detention and re-integration into their communities
  • Improved rehabilitation and other services to address broader needs of those young people who are in custody
  • Improved specialist responses for children with diagnosed disabilities and/or living with the impact of complex trauma backgrounds
  • Ongoing community education in relation to the evidence to reduce the perception that custodial penalties are the preferred solution to address youth crime and enhance community safety

Stephanie Fielder

Principal Policy Adviser, PeakCare

Let us know your thoughts about these and other matters that you think will required focused attention during the next phase of action planning by entering comments below.

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  1. Morrie O Connor on December 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    About 12% of YJ clients with an order have a diagnosed disability and about another 18% a suspected disability.There needs to be focused work with these young people to support access to NDIS individual plans.It is also likely that the NDIS model will prove to lack the flexibility and proactive outreach to deliver appropriate support to this group so there needs to be a monitoring and feedback process to NDIA where this is occurring.

  2. Philip Armit on January 2, 2019 at 10:53 am

    I think that Youth Justice – Minister et al – can be very proud of the present reform initiatives. YJ reform has long been neglected across the Commonwealth. Undertaking these reforms takes a great deal of courage given the potential for community backlash.
    The obvious, burning question must be: how can government secure the longevity of these reforms?
    It seems to me that government, by itself can’t ensure these reforms live long enough to take root and flourish.
    The anger among people e.g. in Townsville when there was an epidemic of car-theft and joy-riding, and the rise of vigilante groups, and the ease with which that anger might be fanned in a “law and order” campaign, must be on minds of reformers as they implement these initiatives.
    I wondered if the implementation budget include scope for funding individuals to run awareness and involvement building programs in key communities – e.g. Cherbourg and Townsville.
    From reading a few articles in the Burnett Times, around the time YJ reform initiatives have been announced, the Council want positive initiatives to happen – they want change and the reports themselves have been positive, even when reporting negative comments from Ms Frecklington – about govt being soft on crime with changes to bail arrangements [July]. Interestingly, Mr Watts was a bit more measured in his comments. Building community bridgeheads – based on understanding of them – to support reforms in Nanango division might counteract the politically partisan impulses somewhat. But it may ensure that the reforms you’re all putting such effort into might last.
    Best wishes. Stay strong and compassionate.

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