Victoria is on the path to creating the perfect storm, says Jesuit CEO

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Media and Communications Office
Victoria has seen a doubling in the number of young people in detention centres over the past five years. Eighty per cent of these young people are now on remand, leading to complications, including mental health issues and aggravated behaviour. This has prompted the Victorian Government to investigate the effectiveness of the state’s approach to youth justice, culminating in the current Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres, which today held its second public hearing in Melbourne.
At this morning’s session at Parliament, Julie Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of the Jesuit Social Services, stressed the need to divert and rehabilitate through a strong network of support and accountability. ‘We must ensure that children and young people are not unnecessarily detained while unsentenced,' she said. She suggested that a range of evidence-based alternatives to youth custodial remand be introduced or expanded, in particular out-of-hours support.
 Top right tile: Julie Edwards, CEO of Jesuit Social Services and Daniel Clements, General Manager of Justice Programs
Ms Edwards pointed out that the state’s youth justice system currently lacks adequate consultation with sector and experts. ‘Victoria is not following best practice,’ she said, adding that current practices and approaches were heading towards creating a perfect storm. She rued the lack of a clear model leading to arbitrary practices. She suggested that young people on remand should not be detained unnecessarily. 'Detention should be a last resort,' she said.
Acknowledging there are pockets of good practice, Ms Edwards expressed hope they would filter out into operating procedures. 'An incentivised good behaviour model would be preferable to the current punitive model,' she said. She said she hoped that an ‘informal pact’ between politicians, police, judiciary and the broader community would work towards this aim.
Responding to a query from a committee member, Ms Edwards said that although she has a level of confidence in the current leadership, she believes that youth justice would sit best under the governance of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). As of 3 April, the Department of Justice and Regulation assumed responsibility from DHHS for the statutory supervision of young people in the criminal justice system.
Daniel Clements, General Manager of Jesuit Social Services' Justice Programs also spoke at the public hearing. Mr Clements pointed out the importance of creating conditions in which young people are given the chance to understand the effect of their crime upon themselves and the community. He also stressed the importance of investing in prevention and early intervention programs.
Jesuit Social Services commemorates 40 years of its existence this year. Today it supports over 5000 people across Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory to help young people find pathways into education, employment and harmonious communities where they feel they belong.
Refer to the parliamentary website for further information regarding the inquiry. 
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