In Victoria, children  affected by social exclusion – whether living in residential care, or in Aboriginal or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities – are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system, and particularly in custody. We have to admit that systemic racism is a key driver of this inequity.

Humanists Victoria has granted ten thousand dollars to a program committed to helping disadvantaged young people in contact with or at risk of entering the criminal justice system. The program is coordinated by Youthlaw, Victoria’s state-wide free community legal centre for people under 25 years of age.

The particular project is to formulate a common policy platform for all advocates of youth justice, leading up to this year’s State election. The aim is to influence the Victorian Government to adopt a reform agenda for a more effective youth justice system that complies with human rights, so that young people have their best chance to succeed in life.

In order to eliminate systemic inequalities, the goals for government are

  • to agree in principle to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years;
  • to eliminate solitary confinement, and take advice on implementing the Convention against Torture etc., and
  • to boost investment in community-led solutions tackling the drivers of youth offending and over-representation of disadvantaged young people.

Stephen Stuart

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