Youth plan gets nod from rights watchdog
The human rights watchdog has welcomed plans guiding a major overhaul of the ACT youth justice system, but said it would be ''watching closely'' to ensure funds were put forward by the government.
The ACT government released a blueprint for long-awaited reforms to the youth justice system yesterday, giving priority to diversion and early intervention over the next decade.
The Youth Justice Implementation Taskforce, made up of members of the government and community sectors, has been developing the blueprint since last year. The focus of the taskforce has been on reducing the chance of young people being caught up in the youth justice system, and helping rebuild the lives of young Canberrans who have already fallen foul of the law.
The taskforce has urged better co-ordination between the various arms of government, including the justice system, education system, health system, and community services, to quickly identify and divert youths at risk of offending.
It calls for the active recruitment of indigenous staff in Bimberi and community youth justice services, better restorative justice options, and improved diversionary accommodation.
The taskforce's recommendations come after an exhaustive review of the youth justice system by the Human Rights Commission last year. The government has implemented more than half of more than 200 recommendations made in the commission's review, while most of the others were still being worked on.
The Children and Young People Commissioner Alasdair Roy yesterday welcomed the release of the blueprint and said it continued a ''significant shift'' in youth justice since the review.
''I'll be watching closely to see whether the government allocates the resources required to implement the blueprint,'' he said.
''If they do, then obviously we're heading in the right direction.''
The government has already allocated $5.5 million over four years to help implement the taskforce's recommendations. A further $15.3 million was provided for the out-of-home care system, an early intervention measure.
Community Services Minister Joy Burch said the blueprint gave the government a ''clear direction'' to continue to help keep kids away from a life of crime.
''This is all about stopping offending behaviour,'' Ms Burch said.
''It's about changing offending behaviour of young people and adolescents at risk of offending.
''It's about supporting families, supporting individuals.''
The blueprint will seek to reverse the rising rates of youth detention in the ACT, which have seen the ACT gain the unenviable record of the third highest rate of youth detention in Australia.
The number of 10- to 17-year-olds in detention rose from 0.29 per 1000 people in 2007 to 0.5 per 1000 people last year.
Increasing rates of recidivism, high proportions of unsentenced detainees, and the significant overrepresentation of indigenous youths were also cited as major challenges facing the territory's youth justice system.
Shadow community services spokeswoman Vicki Dunne said the reforms were too little, too late.