//
you're reading...
Australian Current Affairs

Funding crisis for juvenile justice in Australia


Orana Juvenile Justice Centre, Dubbo, NSW, Australia

Orana Juvenile Justice Centre, Dubbo, NSW, Australia

The nation’s children’s court system is damaged, starved of resources and handing out sentences that vary widely depending on where children live.

The first national study of the country’s children’s courts, based on hundreds of interviews with magistrates, other judicial officers and a range of stakeholders, has called for an overhaul of the system.

The groundbreaking review found that the lack of specialist children’s court magistrates in many locations across Australia‘s eight jurisdictions was leading to vastly different sentences for the same crimes. The three-year study found that children in regional and remote communities were getting harsher sentences because of a lack of a specialist children’s magistrate in these areas.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years as recommended by the UN committee on the rights of the child, and a substantial investment in bail support programs so that children are not remanded in custody unnecessarily.

It also calls for the greater use of indigenous children’s courts and sentencing circles that rely on elders being involved in the sentencing process, after indigenous children were found to be receiving the harshest sentences.

The National Assessment of Australia’s Children’s Courts led by Allan Borowski from the Department of Social Work and Social Policy at La Trobe University, with Rosemary Sheehan from Monash University’s Department of Social Work was funded by an Australian Research Council discovery grant. The findings will be published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology later this year.

The study finds the growing and increasingly complex workload confronting the children’s court system requires a major increase in court resources and funding.

It also highlights as a major problem the large number of generalists who preside over magistrates or local courts in regional and remote locations and then convene children’s courts.

“The mix of specialists and generalists was viewed by NSW, South Australian and Queensland study participants as problematic,” the report says.

Professor Borowski told The Australian that in regional, rural and remote locations, magistrates were generalists who spent most of their time dealing with adults.

“They are not specialists as in the major cities,” he said. “As a result, you can get a disparity in sentencing. In other words, there can be a certain harshness in sentencing.

“The same case heard before a specialist magistrate in the city would not result in as severe a sentence.

Aboriginal kids can often get harsher sentences. And bail is less likely to be made available to them. The issue of disparity in sentencing is geographic; we refer to it as postcode justice.

“Depending on where you live, the same case will have a different outcome.”

The study’s participants judicial officers, lawyers, youth justice workers and child protection workers in every state and territory – reported that relative to a decade ago, the court served a much more challenging clientele.

“What is new is the complexity of their problems and needs and, in Victoria and NSW, the increase in clients from a refugee background,” the report says.

“Alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, mental health problems and, indeed, prior involvement with the child protection system are now common among the clientele of the child protection jurisdiction.

“Young offenders manifest similar problems and have increasingly engaged in serious (violent) criminal activity. ACT study participants reported a growth in the number of young female offenders appearing in court.”

The report says there is profound concern about court facilities across all jurisdictions, with the exception of Tasmania.

Buildings were reported as failing to cater to children’s needs and described as “overcrowded, tense, chaotic and often unsafe and without adequate security”.

Interview rooms for lawyers to meet clients were either lacking or inadequate, while audio-visual systems to permit parents to participate in proceedings were either poor or not available. Holding facilities for remandees brought to court and those sentenced to detention were either inappropriate or inadequate, while facilities were seen as much worse in regional and remote locations.

The study says it is necessary to change towards a non-adversarial problem-solving approach, particularly in relation to child protection matters.

“Arguably the most significant theme that emerged was that of under-resourcing, not simply of the courts but also of Australia’s youth justice and child protection systems,” the report says.

The authors say “in the competition among public bureaucracies for resources, these courts and systems have not fared well.

“And while inadequate resources is a common refrain, in some jurisdictions it has placed the children’s court at very considerable risk of becoming meaningless in the absence of the instrumental means of achieving its mandates.

“The failure to invest adequately in this court and the youth justice and child protection systems will have major long-term detrimental consequences for Australia as a whole.”

Over the past five years, the lodgment rate for criminal matters in children’s courts increased markedly in NSW and moderately in the Northern Territory. Nationally, they currently finalise almost 67,000 criminal matters and 21,000 child welfare matters a year.

The report finds that child protection workers in some jurisdictions prepare for cases poorly and are unable to perform as witnesses in often vigorous adversarial court proceedings.

Some study participants suggested that CPWs involved in court work, such as judicial officers, should be required to have a specialist qualification.

The report finds that in Western Australia, the lack of resources outside Perth for children, young people and families, a higher proportion of whom are Aboriginal, is reported as so severe that the court is seen as a “sham” institution incapable of realising its purposes.

Source: The Australian “Funding crisis for juvenile justice”
 

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: New Zealand may take asylum-seekers from Australian detention « Craig Hill - February 8, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 17,663 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

The Chinese military has intensified its drone incursions into the skies above Taiwan with almost daily flights of combat and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) TB-001 drone was spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the island and China’s […]

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India’s foreign ministry said on Friday that disengagement along a disputed border area with China will be completed by Sept. 12. Both countries began disengaging from the Gogra-Hot Springs border area in the western Himalayas on Thursday, over two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties. The disengagement comes ahead of a meeting […]

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

Two electrifying moves in recent weeks have the potential to ignite electric vehicle demand in the United States. First, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, expanding federal tax rebates for EV purchases. Then California approved rules to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The Inflation Reduction Act extends the Obama-era EV tax […]

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

In the post-cold war era, India has moved from a policy of non-alignment to a policy of multi-alignment. This means that India has friendly relations with almost all-powerful and developing nations. Today India is carving out a unique path for itself. Such an approach provides prominence and exposes India to the harmful behind-curtain activities by […]

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s frontline island of Kinmen was once again in the headlines when President Tsai Ing-wen paid tribute this week to the soldiers and civilians who “operated in solidarity and safeguarded Taiwan” 64 years ago. On Aug. 23, 1958 mainland Chinese troops attacked Kinmen in a key battle that marked the beginning of the Second Taiwan […]

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

The father of communism, Karl Marx, once famously said — “We have no compassion, and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror”. This statement summarises how terrorism and communism go hand in hand. Maoist China alone destroyed between 44.5 to 72 million lives. During […]

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

China is attempting to establish a “new normal” across the Taiwan Strait, eroding self-ruled Taiwan’s territorial control and increasing the threat of a strike with each military sortie, officials and analysts say. Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide stretch of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China — and the […]

When Beijing was burning, Xi was playing personal games 

When Beijing was burning, Xi was playing personal games 

A great fire destroyed Rome for six days in the summer of AD 64. Famous Roman historian of that time, Tacitus, recorded that 70 percent of the city was destroyed and half of the city’s residents were displaced. Roman ruler Nero was accused of being indifferent, ineffective, and careless. The end result of this neglect […]

China would re-educate Taiwan in event of reunification

China would re-educate Taiwan in event of reunification

Once China achieves its professed goal of establishing control over Taiwan, a process of “re-education” of the island’s population would follow, according to China’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye. The ambassador was speaking on French television channel BFM TV on Wednesday night, when he said a majority of the Taiwanese population actually wanted to be […]

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is a political sabotage

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is a political sabotage

Sri Lanka’s present state confirms the famous statement: “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.” Sri Lankans have been repeating the mistakes of choosing the politicians Rajapaksas again and again. It is confirmed that there were unaccounted payments that the Chinese were liberal with during project negotiations with the island nation. They were paid […]

%d bloggers like this: