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Youth Justice Administration Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading

(Continued from 10 February 2016)

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 15:24 :56 ): I understand this bill is needed because a change in the structure of the departments and ministers saw a split in the way youth justice was administered. Currently, different aspects of youth justice are administered under a number of acts and other mechanisms. This bill will consolidate all youth justice administration under the one act. The guiding principles of the bill are to emphasise the importance between the particular needs of youth offenders, rehabilitation and community safety.

The issue of youth justice and what should be the guiding principle is a complex matter. If we look at international examples, we see systems and community attitudes which are vastly different to ours. For example, the infamous case of the murder of two-year-old James Bulger in Merseyside in the UK saw an entire community angered and vying for the blood of two ten year olds. The offenders were tried as adults, found guilty and incarcerated until they reached adulthood.

In comparison, in a similar case in Norway, where five-year-old Silje Redergard was beaten and murdered by six-year-old boys, the community took an entirely different approach. The two boys were not punished or labelled as killers, and in fact within a week they were enrolled at a local preschool where they were included and embraced by others, not ostracised. They were fostered psychologically and supported by government social workers until they turned 18 when they had the choice of continuing to receive support from a caseworker or not.

These two cases show polarising attitudes to the administration of youth justice and I believe that achieving a balance, as proposed, is the key. The important role of family support as well as the unique challenges related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and youth from minorities are also recognised in the bill. Given the overrepresentation of both of these groups, it is important to recognise the unique challenges faced by these youth and be mindful of their background, which may have contributed to their offending.

I am pleased to see the introduction of the training centre visitor and the charter of rights for youths detained in training centres. It is important that the rules and guidelines for treatment within training centres is outlined and that there is an avenue to have matters addressed if anyone feels there are problems.

Like another bill we currently have in this place which deals with adult offenders, this bill seeks to extend the parameters of home detention and the circumstances in which home detention can be used. I hold some concerns about this, and the cynic in me believes that the government is expanding home detention provisions as they are running out of space in gaols and youth training centres. This thought is more relevant to adult offenders rather than juvenile offenders, as I recognise that often having a young offender in home detention within a supportive family environment will serve them and the community much better than a term in a training centre.

Finally, I understand changes are proposed to change the ceiling age of young people in youth custody. I am supportive of these measures as it has often struck me as peculiar that once a person hits the magical age of 18 they are expected to suddenly become all-wise and all-knowing, with the ability to be able to cope with whatever life throws at them. This is, of course, not the case, and I am supportive of measures which will support young people.