Summary

This report looks at young people who were under youth justice supervision in Australia during 2017–18 because of their involvement or alleged involvement in crime. It explores the key aspects of supervision, both in the community and in detention, as well as recent trends.

About 1 in 490 young people aged 10–17 were under supervision on an average day

A total of 5,513 young people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2017–18 and 10,638 young people were supervised at some time during the year. Among those aged 10–17, this equates to a rate of 21 per 10,000, or 1 in every 486 young people on an average day.

Most young people were supervised in the community

More than 4 in 5 (83% or 4,568) young people under supervision on an average day were supervised in the community, and almost 1 in 5 (18% or 974) were in detention (some were supervised in both the community and detention on the same day).

The majority of young people in detention were unsentenced

About 3 in 5 (60%) young people in detention on an average day were unsentenced—that is, awaiting the outcome of their legal matter or sentencing.

Young people spent an average of 6 months under supervision

Individual periods of supervision that were completed during 2017–18 lasted for a median of 119 days or about 4 months (this includes time under supervision before 1 July 2017 if the period started before that date). When all the time spent under supervision during 2017–18 is considered (including multiple periods and periods that were not yet completed), young people who were supervised during the year spent an average of 189 days or about 6 months under supervision.

Supervision rates varied among the states and territories

Rates of youth justice supervision varied among the states and territories, reflecting, in part, the fact that each state and territory has its own legislation, policies, and practices.

In 2017–18, the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day ranged from 12 per 10,000 in Victoria to 59 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory.

Rates of supervision have fallen over the past 5 years

Over the 5 years from 2013–14 to 2017–18, the number of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell by 9%, while the rate dropped from 24 to 21 per 10,000. The rate fell for community-based supervision (from 20 to 17 per 10,000) and rose slightly for detention (from 3 to 4 per 10,000).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rates have fallen

Although only about 5% of young people aged 10–17 in Australia are Indigenous, half (49%) of those under supervision on an average day in 2017–18 were Indigenous.

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell from 199 to 187 per 10,000 (Table S12a). The rate of non-Indigenous young people under supervision also fell over the period, from 13 to 11 per 10,000.

Young people in remote areas were more likely to be under supervision

Although most young people under supervision had come from cities and regional areas, those from geographically remote areas had the highest rates of supervision. On an average day in 2017–18, young people aged 10–17 who were from Remote areas were 6 times as likely to be under supervision as those from Major cities, while those from Very remote areas were 9 times as likely.

Young people from lower socioeconomic areas were more likely to be under supervision

More than 1 in 3 young people (36%) under supervision on an average day in 2017–18 were from the lowest socioeconomic areas, compared with 5% from the highest socioeconomic areas.

Over a third of young people were new to supervision

More than one-third (36%) of young people under youth justice supervision in 2017–18 were new to supervision in that year. The rest (64%) had been supervised in a previous year. Indigenous young people (70%) were more likely than non-Indigenous young people (60%) to have been under supervision in a previous year.

Indigenous young people were younger when they entered supervision than non-Indigenous young people

On average, Indigenous young people entered youth justice supervision at a younger age than non-Indigenous young people. Two in 5 (39%) Indigenous young people under supervision in 2017–18 were first supervised when aged 10–13, compared with about 1 in 7 (15%) non Indigenous young people.

A higher proportion of young people experience community-based supervision in their supervision history than detention

More than 9 in 10 (92%) young people who were supervised during 2017–18 had been under community-based supervision at some time during their supervision history (either during 2017–18 or in a previous year). More than 6 in 10 (65%) had spent time in detention.vi