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.



  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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 14,942 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

  • So I made the short list for a job with Forbes-Wilcannia Catholic Care, but they want to know my age, religion & ma… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 1 hour ago
  • RT @docbaty: A quick note about the Nationals bargaining position around climate change, and that it’s possibly one of their strongest nego… 2 hours ago
  • RT @docbaty: Nobody at COP26 is going to care about whether or not Australia has a 2050 goal. They’ll be interested in what we’re doing tod… 5 hours ago
  • RT @CraigHill01: So the Nationals have backed @ScottMorrisonMP's plan for net-zero by 2050. Problem for Scott is, he doesn't actually have… 8 hours ago
  • So the Nationals have backed @ScottMorrisonMP's plan for net-zero by 2050. Problem for Scott is, he doesn't actually have a plan. #auspol 21 hours ago

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

China’s trade practices come under fire

China’s trade practices come under fire

China’s trade policies have come under strong criticism during a review at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US accused China of “skewing the playing field” by using “unfair trade practices” such as preferential treatment for state businesses. Meanwhile Australia said the country’s behaviour was “inconsistent” with its WTO commitments. China said it was committed […]

China’s economy weakens, then gets even worse and now there’s a global shipping crisis. What’s next?

China’s economy weakens, then gets even worse and now there’s a global shipping crisis. What’s next?

The world is waking up to the fact that maybe being dependent upon China for its goods is not such a good idea. In 2019 at about the same time the US was closing on the trade deals with China, COVID emerged in China. In 2019 China’s economy was also beginning to slow down. COVID […]

U.S. needs nuclear spacecraft to compete with China, NASA official tells Congress

U.S. needs nuclear spacecraft to compete with China, NASA official tells Congress

A NASA official told Congress on Wednesday that the United States needs more nuclear spacecrafts in order to compete with China. “Strategic competitors including China are aggressively investing in a wide range of space technologies, including nuclear power and propulsion,” Bhavya Lal, NASA’s senior advisor for budget and finance, told the House Science, Space, and […]

China shows off drones recycled from Soviet-era fighter jets

China shows off drones recycled from Soviet-era fighter jets

China has for the first time showed off retired 1950s era fighter jets that have been converted to unmanned drones, with satellite photos of two of its east coast bases near Taiwan showing a large number of the jets on site. The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command published the photos of two Shenyang J-6s […]

China’s propaganda machine is intensifying its ‘people’s war’ to catch American spies

China’s propaganda machine is intensifying its ‘people’s war’ to catch American spies

“Let’s fight a ‘people’s war’ against the spies, so that they cannot move a single step and have no place to hide!” That was the rallying cry of a Chinese military newspaper on social media over the weekend, as Beijing urges public vigilance against American espionage following the launch of a CIA mission center dedicated […]

China’s blackouts break power cutoff pledge

China’s blackouts break power cutoff pledge

As China struggles to control the latest surge of power shortages, the government seems to be hoping that the public will have short memories for how it has dealt with similar problems in the past. After months of downplaying the power crisis and recommending partial fixes, central government authorities belatedly acknowledged the spread of electricity […]

Cadence Column: Asia, October 18, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, October 18, 2021

According to Chinese and US claims, China has a high-orbit, hypersonic missile that can hit a target within 24 miles. And, that’s why China is the new boss of the world and everyone else should hate America. The end. But, that’s not the end in the mind of Taiwan or the US Pentagon. This week, […]

China ‘making its nuclear submarines harder to detect’

China ‘making its nuclear submarines harder to detect’

China is upgrading its nuclear missile-equipped submarines to make them harder for rival powers such as the US to detect, reports suggest. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has redesigned its type 094 submarines to make them quieter, The South China Morning Post reports. Defence experts believe the Chinese 094 submarine can carry and launch the […]

Could China’s economy collapse?

Could China’s economy collapse?

For almost half a century, Chinese officials have overseen one of the greatest economic transformations in human history. The country has gone from collectivized farms and famine to world-leading tech companies and gleaming megacities connected by superfast trains. More than 800 million Chinese have been pulled out of poverty as the Communist Party and its leader […]

China’s economic crisis is much bigger than expected – its property market, the largest in the world, is collapsing

China’s economic crisis is much bigger than expected – its property market, the largest in the world, is collapsing

The situation in China is much worse than originally thought.  The largest property market in the world is set to collapse and the ramifications will impact the entire world.  We’ve been discussing China’s economic issues for years.  Recently this was even discussed with Steve Bannon on The War Room. We now have information that the […]

%d bloggers like this: