Australian Capital Territory
Youth justice systems, policies and programs
Key policy directions
Key policy directions in youth justice in the Australian Capital Territory include:
- the Blueprint for Youth Justice in the ACT 2012-22 provides the strategic direction for reform of the youth justice system to improve outcomes for young people. Its current focus is on prevention and diversion initiatives;
- strengthening support to children, young people and families through the combining of statutory functions of the youth justice and care and protection systems with the establishment of Child and Youth Protection Services (effective from 1 July 2015);
- reform of the ACT's human services system set out in the community and government's Human Services Blueprint and Better Services. Key initiatives such as Strengthening Families focus on early intervention and wraparound support for families;
- enhanced understanding of, and response to long term trauma through exposure to family violence through the ACT Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children Strategy 2011-17;
- ongoing initiatives under the ACT Youth Commitment to ensure that no young person is lost from education and is equipped to engage in training and/or employment;
- continued implementation of a Youth Justice Support and Intervention Framework, giving agencies and staff an evidence-based guide for the design and delivery of support, interventions and programs based on an assessment of a young person's risk of re-offending; and
- continued delivery of the After Hours Bail and Support Service (referred to as the After Hours Crisis Service from 1 July 2015) to assist young people in police custody by arranging suitable community-based alternatives and assisting them to comply with their bail conditions.
Youth justice agency
The Community Services Directorate is responsible for providing youth justice services in the Australian Capital Territory. These services include the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, Youth Justice Case Management and the After Hours Bail and Support Service.
Youth Justice Case Management is responsible for the assessment, supervision and support of children and young people subject to bail or justice orders, either in the community or in custody. It is also responsible for providing pre-sentence reports on young people to the courts, and is the lead service supporting young people accessing the After Hours Bail Support Service and the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court Program.
As of 1 July 2015, Youth Justice and Care and Protection Services integrated to become Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) to allow for better coordination of service to prevent children and young people who experience trauma, neglect and abuse from escalating to the youth justice system. CYPS will provide a trauma-informed response that focuses on diversion, protection, restoration, transition and permanency.
The Restorative Justice Unit within the Justice and Community Safety Directorate is responsible for managing all restorative justice conferences.
Police are the first point of contact for young people entering the criminal justice system in the Australian Capital Territory. Police have discretionary powers to divert young people who have committed minor offences using a warning and diversionary system. If a decision is made to prosecute, the police may issue a summons for the young person to attend court, or detain them until the next sitting of the Children's Court.
The ACT Children's Court deals with young people or young adults who are alleged to have committed an offence between 10-17 years, and who are not diverted from the criminal justice system. Young people convicted of indictable offences in the Children's Court may be committed to the Supreme Court for sentencing. Young people whom the Supreme Court has convicted may be remitted to the Children's Court for sentencing.
The Galambany Court (circle sentencing) provides a culturally relevant sentencing option in the ACT Magistrates Court for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders, including young people. The Circle Sentencing process gives the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community an opportunity to work with the ACT criminal justice system to address over-representation and offending behaviour.
Key elements, programs and services
Diversionary programs that target young offenders, many who are first-time offenders and could be at risk of becoming persistent offenders, divert young people from entering or continuing in the youth justice system in the ACT. Key programs include:
- The After Hours Bail and Support Service aims to keep young people out of custody by providing alternative community-based options to being remanded in Bimberi and assisting young people on justice orders to comply with the conditions of their orders.
- The Alcohol and Other Drugs Diversion Program diverts young people away from the youth justice system and refers them to assessment and education programs, including:
- The Youth Alcohol Diversion for under-age drinkers who are intoxicated, in possession of, or consuming alcohol in a public place;
- Illicit Drug Diversion for people who are found in possession of illicit drugs for personal use alone; and
- ACT Policing Crime Reduction Education and Diversion (CRED) team offers education and awareness presentations in relation to drugs and alcohol in ACT secondary schools.
- The Youth Drug and Alcohol Court (YDAC) provides a judicial and therapeutic diversionary option for young people with a drug or alcohol problem who are at high risk of being sentenced to imprisonment. Young people who participate in the YDAC are intensively supervised and supported by Youth Justice Case Management (referred to as the Child and Youth Protection Service from 1 July 2015).
Youth Justice Case Management provides case management and service coordination for all young people supervised on a community-based order or detained at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, as well as transition planning for those serving periods of detention. Evidence-based practice is applied in the case management of young people involved in the criminal justice system, supported by the application of 'What Works' literature and the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI). The YLS/CMI is a strengths-based risk assessment tool that predicts a young offenders' risk of re-offending and identifies target-areas for rehabilitation. Case managers prepare reports for the court regarding young people who are alleged to have offended, complete risk assessments and deliver the Changing Habits and Reaching Targets program (CHART) to those who have entered guilty pleas or been sentenced.
Youth Justice Case Management has focused on delivering a more effective and evidence-based approach to the supervision of young people on justice orders. Practice improvements have been made to strengthen the skills of case managers to reduce risk factors associated with offending, increase the compliance of young people under supervision with justice orders and strengthen protective factors. These improvements include:
- embedding single case management across youth services in the assessment, supervision and support of young people on justice orders. Single case management encourages staff to work differently and empowers them to be a 'single point of contact', not only for young people but also for other key service providers and stakeholders.
- embedding the Youth Justice Support and Intervention Framework to guide staff and agencies in the design and delivery of support, interventions and programs based on a young person's risk of re-offending (low, medium or high) and their areas of criminogenic need.
- strengthened cultural planning for young people on justice orders. A revised approach to cultural planning was developed through consultation with government and community organisations, with particular consideration of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
Offence-specific and therapeutic programs
A range of programs and interventions are delivered within the community and custodial environments to address the needs of young people. These include programs that focus on alcohol and other drug issues, relationship issues and educational needs. The CHART program, a cognitively-based intervention designed to help young people to change their thinking and decision-making processes, is delivered in both the community and the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre.
A range of partnerships also exist to assist young offenders that focus on the delivery of education, employment skills programs, post-release support, disability support, and health and mental health support.
Programs for Indigenous young people
Youth Justice Case Management has a dedicated cultural officer available to assist case managers to provide culturally appropriate support and supervision to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and to increase engagement by families.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family engagement officer provides services for young people detained in the centre, and works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community service providers and Youth Justice Case Management to ensure young people transitioning from custody are supported within their community. The Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre at Bimberi also has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander transition officer who facilitates the transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people into appropriate training, education or employment options.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community service providers run various programs at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre including counselling, family support and Indigenous art.
Supported accommodation and bail programs
The After Hours Bail and Support Service aims to keep young people out of custody by providing alternative community-based options to being remanded in Bimberi and assisting young people on justice orders to comply with the conditions of their orders. Staff work with young people, court officials and other service providers to ensure that, where appropriate, young people are able to remain in the community while being supervised for compliance with bail conditions.
The Narrabundah House Indigenous Service Residential Facility provides short to mid-term and crisis accommodation and intensive case management primarily for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young men aged 15 to 18 years who are on community-based justice orders. The facility provides supported accommodation, as well as culturally-based residential and integrated programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young men aged 15-18 who are at risk of entering custody or becoming homeless.
Pre- and post-release support
The Bimberi Youth Justice Centre offers a number of initiatives that aim to provide young people with the skills to help them successfully transition back into the community.
The Bendora Throughcare Unit was established at Bimberi in August 2011 to prepare young people to transition from detention back into the community. Young people are provided with skills training and planned leave from Bimberi to prepare for a successful transition into the community.
Support is also provided to young people leaving Bimberi who have been on long-term care orders, by the Youth Support and Transition Team. An education program focused on reintegration outcomes is delivered by the Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre at Bimberi.
Youth Housing Program provides support to young people (16 to 25 years) who are transitioning from youth justice, care and protection, or homelessness services.
The Canberra Police Community Youth Club provides post-release support in a range of areas including employment, training and education, recreation, and issues around family, relationships and peer association through their ReSET Program.
Other programs and services
Youth Justice Case Management provides support and assistance to young people through the intensive case management and coordination of the Turnaround program.
Turnaround is a specialised, strengths-based program for young people aged 12-18 who have high and complex needs that are not being met by the services that are currently supporting them. Young people who engage with the program are supported to establish social connectedness and positive life pathways.
The ACT has an Official Visitor for Children and Young People and an Official Visitor who identifies as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The scheme provides a monitoring and complaints system for people in a visitable place, such as Bimberi and places of care, who are dependent on the service provider or accommodation manager supporting them. Official visitors aim to safeguard standards of treatment and care and advocate for the rights and dignity of people being treated.