Young First Nations people yarn about youth justice17 November 2022
More than 100 children and young people have described their lived experiences of Queensland’s youth justice system and its effectiveness in reducing reoffending.
Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) Commissioner Natalie Lewis said engaging with children and young people and listening to their views was a critical contributor to improving youth justice responses.
“Queensland has more children and young people in detention than any other state in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are grossly over-represented,” Ms Lewis said.
“The current conversation around the topic of youth crime has largely ignored the voices and perspectives of those most impacted—children and young people—meaning we have missed an opportunity for them to contribute to solutions that can address the causes of offending.
“The QFCC’s youth justice program seeks the views of children and young people, as well as those of their families and communities, to influence solutions that will make a difference.
“Over a six-month period, the QFCC spoke with more than 100 children and young people aged between 8 and 25 who were at risk of coming into contact with the youth justice system or had current or past experience, with the vast majority identifying as having First Nations heritage.
“Children and young people spoke about their experiences in the child protection system, periods of detention, and their interactions with court processes and police, and they described how these experiences affected their wellbeing and their likelihood to reoffend.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people described disconnection from kin, community, and culture; disengagement from education during and after detention; and experiences of discrimination as key drivers of youth crime and the greatest inhibitors of their wellbeing.
“They emphasised the importance of relationships and what it means to have people who care and show up for them—they told us it’s the people in the system and their communities that make the greatest difference.
“This was an important opportunity to bring the perspectives of children and young people into the conversation about what is needed to make meaningful change and about what is most likely going to work for them and their communities.”
Ms Lewis said some of the children’s and young people’s views had been captured in a report, Yarning for Change: Listen to my voice, which had been shared with government.
“The report captures children’s and young people’s uncensored insights and stories of their lived experiences of
the youth justice system, which we have shared with government for its consideration.”
The engagement was part of the QFCC’s youth justice program and was completed in response to a Queensland Government election commitment made in 2020.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman asked the QFCC to undertake culturally appropriate community conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people about their interactions with Queensland’s justice system, to gain a deeper understanding of how current youth justice responses affect their wellbeing.
“The Queensland Government is committed to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our criminal justice system,” Ms Fentiman said.
“We asked the QFCC to complete this engagement, given its strong focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and their families, combined with its experience successfully engaging with children and young people across Queensland.
“I sincerely thank the children and young people who volunteered their stories; I welcome your perspectives and will ensure they are heard throughout this government.”
Yarning for Change: Listen to my voice can be viewed at www.qfcc.qld.gov.au
For media information contact:
Kirstine O’Donnell | Queensland Family and Child Commission
Phone: 0404 971 164