In 2019, the Director-General of the then Department of Youth Justice asked us to conduct oversight of youth justice initiatives and examine options to inform future youth justice systems and processes.
We identified two questions.
Are youth justice reforms ensuring:
- there is a reliable, trusted system built on shared connections and commitment?
- children’s rights, well-being and safety are being upheld and protected?
We examined activities and projects related to pillars two and three of the Queensland Government’s Working together Changing the Story: Youth Justice Strategy 2019–23 which were:
- Keep children out of court.
- Keep children out of custody.
We also considered the over-representation of Aboriginal children and Torres Strait Islander children in the youth justice system.
Our report, Changing the sentence: Overseeing Queensland’s youth justice reforms found that if the long-term goal of reducing youth crime is to be achieved, investment should focus on:
- reducing the factors that may contribute to a young person committing crime (prevention and early intervention); and
- specialised services for the young people already in the formal system who are committing most of the crime.
The system is more likely to be effective if at-risk young people are viewed through a rights and well-being, rather than criminal, lens. It will also be more effective if decision-making about services and support for Aboriginal children and Torres Strait Islander children is returned to local communities and community controlled organisations.