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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
    The Honourable Di Farmer

    Queensland juvenile justice reforms announced last year will commence on February 12

    Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
    The Honourable Di Farmer

    Monday, January 29, 2018

    Queensland juvenile justice reforms announced last year will commence on February 12

    Queensland will treat 17 year-olds under Youth Justice laws instead of as adults from February 12, delivering on a Palaszczuk Government promise and bringing the state into line with legislation in all other Australian jurisdictions.

    The change follows the passing of the Youth Justice and Other Legislation (Inclusion of 17-year-old Persons) Amendment Act by the Queensland Parliament in 2016, to amend the age that a person can be charged as an adult from 17 to 18 years of age. 

    Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, Di Farmer, said implementation of the reforms fulfilled the government’s commitment to breaking the cycle of youth offending.

    “The Palaszczuk Government will continue to drive reforms that tackle the causes and the consequences of offending by children and young people,” Ms Farmer said.

    “We will do everything we can to turn them away from a life of crime and the harms and costs to the community that results.

    “Instead we want these kids safe, educated, employed, playing sport and healthy, and not offending.

    “We can’t give up on them having a brighter future.”

    Ms Farmer said the legislation supported wide-sweeping reforms across Youth Justice to ensure the rehabilitation of young offenders and to keep the community safe.

    “By reforming the youth justice system we are improving results and providing more targeted support services to help these children turn their lives around and become valued members of our community,” Ms Farmer said.

    Ms Farmer said a transitional regulation supporting the Act would also commence on 12 February 2018, ensuring 17 year-olds currently involved in the adult justice system could be carefully transitioned to Youth Justice care.

    “Naturally, decisions about the appropriateness of transitioning individual 17 year-olds to detention from adult prison will be made based on the safety and best interests of the child, staff and the wider community,” she said.

    The commencement of the legislation and transitional regulation means that:

    • All 17 year-olds on community-based orders will transfer to Youth Justice supervision;
    • All 17 year-olds in adult custody will be eligible for transfer to a youth detention centre, if it is in the child’s best interest and safe to do so; and

    Court proceedings will transfer to the youth justice system:

    • If it is the first time the matter is before the court
    • Following the completion of a hearing (where the hearing has been part-heard)
    • Where a community-based order is breached.

    As announced by the Attorney-General last year, Queensland has also introduced Supervised Bail Accommodation to reduce the number of young people in detention on remand and help children on bail to make positive changes in their lives.

    Ms Farmer said about 80 per cent of the children in youth detention in Queensland were on remand, compared to a national average of 57 per cent.

    “It is unacceptable that we have such a high rate of children on remand, many of whom are in detention only because they have no safe and secure home to go to,” Ms Farmer said.

    “Supervised Bail Accommodation services offer eligible children a safe and secure place to stay while on bail, as well as providing the support they need to attend school or vocational education and complete rehabilitation programs.

    “They provide the courts with another option for accommodation, where children can participate in activities that help them build a better future away from their pasts.

    “These are children who would be bailed to their homes if they had safe, secure homes to go to.”

    “Many children are in detention on remand because they have no supported, secure and stable accommodation while on bail. We are providing this fundamental service to change the lives of these young people,” Ms Farmer said.

    The first two services opened in Townsville in December 2017 and January 2018, with more to open across the state.

    The number of children staying at the services will be small and they will be under 24/7 supervision and required to abide by strict conditions such as curfews and bail conditions.

    The reforms also include:

    • Changes to Queensland detention centres – including the 83 accepted recommendations made in the Independent Review of Youth Detention;
    • Recruitment of new frontline staff for courts and Youth Justice Service Centres;
    • More resources for courts and prosecutors, including two more full-time equivalent magistrates, to ensure timely processes; and
    • Provision of after-hours legal services to young people and increased funding for Legal Aid Queensland.

    The Palaszczuk Government has committed $199.6 million in capital and operational funding over four years to support the reforms and supporting programs.

    The commencement of the legislation and the transition will deliver on the Palaszczuk Government’s pledge to deliver vital reform to the Youth Justice system.

    Ms Farmer said that, while the legislation commenced in two weeks, the reforms had been underway for more than two years.

    “Since 2015, Youth Justice has been working with other government and non-government agencies to better support children involved in the Youth Justice system, including significant reforms to Queensland’s youth detention centres,” Ms Farmer said.

    “Many children involved in the youth justice system come from complex and difficult backgrounds, including 80 per cent not attending school regularly, 85 per cent impacted by Ice and 60 per cent disengaged from their families.

    “It is critical that we create a system that supports their wellbeing and safety in balance with the need for justice and accountability,” she said.

    The changes have already won significant support, with key stakeholders backing the reforms.

     

    Debbie Kilroy from Sisters Inside

    "I'm excited and overwhelmed that in a few weeks 17 year olds will finally be treated as children under Queensland's criminal law.

    “Alongside other organisations, Sisters Inside has advocated for this change for decades.

    "I'm relieved that 17 year olds from now on will have the chance to pursue a future that is not defined by their childhood mistakes.”

     

    Lindsay Wegener, PeakCare

    “This is good news for everyone – young people themselves, their parents and families, those who have been the victims of youth crime and the community at large.

    “The Queensland public has a right to feel protected from crime and there is no better long term protection from crime than diverting children from becoming involved with the adult criminal justice system.”

     

    Bevan Costello, Cherbourg elder and Chair of the Barambah Justice Group

    “Because of the percentage of Aboriginal youth in our detention centres the community that I represent are 100 per cent behind the changes that are made to the Youth Justice Regulation.”

     

    Dale Murray, director - Edmund Rice Education Australia Youth+ Institute

    "Today’s announcement heralds a very positive and important step in youth justice initiatives brought into legislation by the Queensland Labor Government.

    “The conditions, we as a society, treat vulnerable and at risk young people can only be measured in terms of compassion and empathy. “

     

    Terry Hutchinson – Adjunct Professor, Southern Cross University

    "The changes are decades overdue and a victory for evidence based policy in Queensland."

    "The reforms bring Queensland into step with other jurisdictions in Australia."

     

    Media Contact:        Ron Goodman          0427 781 920

     

    Further background information:

    Information on the profile of young people in the youth justice system

    Measure

    Percentage

    Remand (Detention)

    83%

    Homeless or unsuitable accommodation

    23%

    Disengaged from Education (not enrolled)

    40%

    Not attending school regularly

    80%

    Taken drugs

    75%

    Methamphetamine impact

    85%

    Mental health disorders

    38%

    Known to child safety

    83%

    Child protection orders (detention)

    13%

    Children who have experienced DV or from DV families

    90%

    Intellectual disability

    14%

    Speech impairment (detention)

    32%

    Vision or hearing disability/impairment (detention)

    3.5%

    Sexual assault (girls in detention)

    57%

    Family disengagement

    59%