The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody (April 1991) highlighted both the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the youth and adult justice systems, and the accelerated rate of progress through the youth justice system experienced by many young Aboriginal people.
The findings included the need to 'devise strategies designed to reduce the rate at which young Aboriginal people are involved in the welfare and criminal justice systems'. Through the Aboriginal Justice Agreement the Department of Justice and Community Safety has actively responded to the findings.
Koori Youth Justice Program
The Koori Youth Justice Program was developed in 1992 in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (April 1991) and now operates throughout the department's metropolitan and rural regions. Koori youth justice workers are located across the state and within the Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice custodial centres.
The program employs Koori youth justice workers to support young Aboriginal people who are at risk of offending as well as those on community-based and custodial orders. The workers assist in providing access to appropriate role models, culturally sensitive support, advocacy and casework.
The Koori Youth Justice Program is operated in the community mainly by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. Aboriginal custodial workers are employed by youth justice custodial services to work with and support young Aboriginal people while they are in custody. The program aims to prevent offending or re-offending behaviour by ensuring that young Aboriginal people are connected to their families and communities and provided with access to the supports and services they require.
Koori Early School Leavers and Youth Employment Program
The Koori Early School Leavers and Youth education Program is an initiative designed to divert young people from the youth justice system by focusing on the key risk factors for young people, particularly lack of engagement with school and employment opportunities.
The Koori Intensive Support Program (KISP)
The Koori Intensive Support Program works to reduce the number of young Aboriginal people who are detained prior to sentencing and provides intensive outreach support to assist young people to comply with bail conditions or conditions placed on deferred sentences. This program provides assistance to help young Aboriginal people integrate into their communities. The program consists of a departmental based position, and provides support within youth justice centres before a young person pre-release and is continued via outreach in the community after the young person is released into the community.
Aboriginal Cultural Support Plans
Young Aboriginal have the opportunity to have an Aboriginal Cultural Support Plan to ensure their connection to their community, to enhance their sense of belonging to community and cultural supports to assist in diverting them from the youth justice system.
The role of Youth Justice Units
Youth Justice Units are at the front line of diverting young Aboriginal people from further progression into the criminal justice system. In recent years Youth Justice Units have undertaken a range of initiatives to reduce the number of young Aboriginal people re-entering the youth justice system. These include:
- implementation of Aboriginal Cultural Support Plans
- providing the Youth Justice Court Advice Service at the Children's Koori Court
- recruitment of Koori intensive bail support practitioners
- recruitment of Koori intensive post release practitioners
- secondary consultation with the Youth Justice Court Advice Service to ensure that young Aboriginal people involved with the criminal justice system have their cultural needs met
- development of community-based programs specifically for young Aboriginal people involved with the youth justice system, which take into account their cultural needs.