QCOSS has drawn upon ongoing research and engagement with community organisations across Queensland in the development of this submission to the Youth Justice Reform Inquiry.
This engagement has included a Youth Justice Roundtable hosted in partnership with the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak and the Youth Advocacy Centre in December 2023. The Roundtable was attended by a range of stakeholders, including First Nations Elders, community sector professionals, and other key stakeholders with expertise in youth justice.
Our submission has been structured in response to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. We note the additional release of an issues paper from the Committee regarding victims of crime and have also sought to address some of the issues raised from that paper.
Development of a new Youth Justice Strategy
Participants of the Roundtable noted the Queensland Government’s Youth Justice Strategy was due to end in December 2023. Participants agreed that the Queensland Government should advance the development of a new Youth Justice Strategy in partnership with First Nations Peoples and the community sector, in parallel with the current Youth Justice Reform Select Committee Inquiry. They also implored the Queensland Government to develop policy that seeks to keep the community safe and restore community confidence by reducing youth offending and re-offending, while respecting children’s human rights and working to reduce the level of harm caused by current systems.
Building on the four pillars of “intervene early”, “keep children out of court”, “keep children out of custody” and “reduce re-offending”, Roundtable participants are seeking the development of a new Youth Justice Strategy that invests in communities, transfers the delivery of solutions to community, and:
- is co-designed with First Nations Peoples and centres the voice of children
- is developed in accordance with Queensland’s Human Rights Act 2019
- seeks to remove children under the age of 14 from the justice system
- increases ongoing and sustained investment in First Nations-led evidence-based services and supports to address the underlying causes of offending
- seeks to ensure Closing the Gap justice targets are achieved
- ensures all children have access to culturally appropriate services and supports, including education, health, disability services, AOD services, and housing.
The Queensland Government should develop and implement a youth justice strategy that seeks to keep the community safe while respecting the human rights of children and victims. Further investment in early intervention and diversionary programs and initiatives to address the housing crisis and end poverty are effective evidence-based strategies to reduce youth crime. Of urgency, children should not be held in adult watch houses, and there is a need for an alternative to the justice system for children under the age of 14.