This report looks at young people who were under youth justice supervision in Australia during 2019–20 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. This report includes some data from the COVID-19 period, specifically between March and June 2020.
About 1 in 607 young people aged 10–17 were under supervision on an average day
A total of 5,323 young people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2019–20 and 10,222 young people were supervised at some time during the year.
Among those aged 10–17, this equates to a rate of 16 per 10,000, or about 1 in every 607 young people on an average day.
Most young people were supervised in the community
More than 4 in 5 (84% or 4,490) young people under supervision on an average day were supervised in the community, and about 1 in 6 (16% or 863) were in detention (some were supervised in both community and detention on the same day).
The majority of young people in detention were unsentenced
About 2 in 3 (68% or 586) 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 2019–20 lasted for a median of 123 days or about 4 months (this includes time under supervision before 1 July 2019 if the period started before that date).
When all the time spent under supervision during 2019–20 is considered (including multiple periods and periods that were not yet completed), young people who were supervised during the year spent an average of 190 days (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 differences in legislation, policies, and practices between each state and territory.
In 2019–20, the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day ranged from 9.0 per 10,000 in Victoria to 50 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory.
Rates of supervision have fallen slightly over the past 5 years
Over the 5 years from 2015–16 to 2019–20, the number of young people aged 10 and over who were under supervision on an average day fell by 4%, while the rate of young people aged 10–17 dropped from 20 to 16 per 10,000.
Overall, the rate fell for community-based supervision (from 17 to 14 per 10,000), and dropped slightly for detention (from 3.3 to 2.8 per 10,000).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supervision rates have fallen
Although only about 6% of young people aged 10–17 in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, half (50%) of the young people under supervision on an average day in 2019–20 were Indigenous.
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, the rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell from 167 to 140 per 10,000. The rate of non-Indigenous young people under supervision also fell over the period, from 10 to 8.5 per 10,000.
The rate for young Indigenous people in detention declined from 33 to 26 per 10,000 over the period, while the non-Indigenous rates fluctuated between 1.3 and 1.5 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 (86%), those from geographically remote areas had the highest rates of supervision.
On an average day in 2019–20, young people aged 10–17 who were from Remote or Very remote areas were 6 times as likely to be under supervision as those from Major cities. This largely reflects the higher proportions of Indigenous Australians living in these areas.
Young people from lower socioeconomic areas were more likely to be under supervision
More than 1 in 3 young people (35%) under supervision on an average day in 2019–20 were from the lowest socioeconomic areas, compared with about 1 in 17 young people (6%) from the highest socioeconomic areas.
More than 1 in 3 young people were new to supervision
About one-third (32%) of young people under youth justice supervision in 2019–20 were new to supervision in that year. The rest (68%) had been supervised in a previous year.
Young Indigenous Australians (75%) were more likely than non-Indigenous young people (63%) to have been under supervision in a previous year.
Indigenous Australians were younger when they entered supervision than their non-Indigenous counterparts
On average, Indigenous young people entered youth justice supervision at a younger age than non-Indigenous young people.
Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) Indigenous young people under supervision in 2019–20 were first supervised when aged 10–13, compared with about 1 in 7 (14%) non‑Indigenous young people.