Congratulations to all in the community sector who lobbied against the Federal cuts flagged in the 2014 budget that would have resulted in substantial cuts to frontline services and introduction of highlydetrimental policies including Centrelink waiting periods for unemployed youth. There are still huge gaps in basic services for young people , adequate public education funding and early intervention and prevention programs.
We made some headway to divert young people from the criminal justice system with both major state gov’t parties committing to state wide youth diversion in 2014. In 2015 we continued to lobby and we await the evaluation of 5 pilot programs and the state gov’t fund it state wide.
In 2015 we saw the detrimental impacts of a raft of law & order measures introduced in 2014 ( a breach of bail offence , state wide move on powers and 900 new protective service officers on train stations) . Impacts included a significant increase in young people on remand and in adult prison and mounting debt and court appearances due to increased fines against young people. We saw the new Andrews Government address many of these drivers through introduction of a bill to amend the Bail Act ( to be introduced to the Upper house in Feb 2016) , repeal of ‘move on’ powers & strong public statements committing to a reductionin prison numbers. We also welcomed cross party support for the Royal Commission into Family Violence. We continued to lobby for a review and wind back of the Protective Service Officers numbers. We continued to lobby for independent investigation of police complaints.
2015 saw a rise in youth unemployment and homelessness. Youth unemployment reached its highest peak since 1998. Youth homelessness significantly increased – now almost half of all homeless people in Australia are under the age of 25. This year research and data from youth services targeting youth homelessness and substance abuse has revealed a very high proportion of these young people have experienced family violence in childhood and many leave home to escape it.
As an organisation, Youthlaw has continued to make a substantial contribution to the rights of young people across the state strongly supported by the legal community and the youth sector and the Smart Justice for Young People Coalition. With the assistance of a number of private law firms and barristers Youthlaw has been able to represent more vulnerable young people in court and to run significant test cases to promote the human rights of young people.
As always, sincere thanks to all in the broader community sector , our funders and stakeholders we have worked with . Thanks also to our Community law pro bono partner Ashurst, welcome to K&L Gates and thanks to Maddocks for assistance with our Supreme Court test case. We take this opportunity to thank our many volunteers and our voluntary Board.