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.