Latest News & Updates

New report highlights benefits of early legal and social support for young people using violence in the home

Youthlaw, Victoria’s youth legal centre, is launching the Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT’s Final Evaluation of the Pre-court Support for Adolescents using violence in the home (AVITH) Pilot.

The Report highlights that early, specialist legal and non-legal support and pre-court negotiations, often results in timely and effective outcomes for young people, reduces harmful contact with the justice system and improved safety for their families.

Youthlaw received funding from the Victorian Legal Service Board & Commissioner to develop and evaluate a pilot of an integrated and pre-court response to young people using violence in the home, who are listed as the respondents on an intervention order.

After some delays largely due to COVID-19 impacts, the pilot ran from January 2021 to June 2022 across western metropolitan Melbourne.

The pilot tested the idea that young people would experience better outcomes if they can engage earlier, before their intervention order court hearing, with specialised legal & social work support, in relation to their use & experience of family violence.  Early supports includes risk and needs assessments, providing legal information and advice, supporting young people’s engagement with services, and linking them to and putting in place broad supports to address the young person’s use of violence.

The Report found that the establishment of early referral relationships and pathways with a range of frontline services and agencies, meant that all young people received legal advice and other support prior to the day of court. It improved young people’s engagement and understanding of the legal process

Youthlaw pre-court advocacy and negotiation with Victoria Police and the Court resulted in the young people’s cases resolving sooner and mostly without the imposition of a court order. The evaluation found that the vast majority of young people supported through the pilot exited without any intervention order in place, and had alternative arrangements for safety, help and support in place.   The report also found the majority of associated criminal matters were resolved through police cautions or court diversion.

The capacity of the integrated practice team to link young people with relevant supports not only mitigates the risk of violence within the family, but also create a  space for young people to disclose their own experiences of violence. The report found that over two thirds of young people had experienced family violence, or been exposed to family violence in the home. 

The evaluators made 16 recommendations to build and improve the program. Central to the recommendations is Youthlaw continuing to work to strengthen current referral pathways, facilitate more eligible and suitable referrals, and exploring opportunities to establish new referral pathways.

Media enquiries: Tiffany Overall 0400 903034,

Quotes attributable to Tiffany Overall, Family Violence Program Coordinator, Youthlaw

Youthlaw remains committed to continuing to strengthen this integrated, pre-court model to identify and respond to young people’s legal and non-legal needs; increase safety within families; and reduce harmful contact with the justice system.”

“We are excited to announce that Victorian Government has recently announced funding for Youthlaw to continue delivering this unique model of pre-court support to adolescents using violence in the home until end June 2024.”

Quotes attributable to Elena Campbell, Associate Director – Research, Advocacy and Policy
Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University 

“The evaluation found that the Pilot was overwhelmingly able to contribute to improved outcomes for young people.”

The Pilot clearly demonstrated the difference that earlier engagement with legal and non-legal supports can make to young people who are at significant risk of damaging contact with the justice system. This includes resolving matters sooner and without the imposition of an order in most cases.”

“The existing achievements of the Pilot should, therefore, continue to be consolidated and the promise of this intervention realised as an ongoing offering in Victoria’s family violence response.”

 About Youthlaw

Youthlaw is a community legal service providing free legal advice and representation to young people under the age of 25. Youthlaw is a fearless advocate for young people, and strives for a just and equitable society for, and by, young people. It does this byaddressing systemic legal and social justice issues in Victoria through community education, advocacy and law reform.

More than 65,700 Victorians call on the Andrews government to raise the age

Today a coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, legal, human rights and youth justice organizations will reiterate calls for the Victorian government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 with the backing of 65,799 Victorian residents who have signed the petition to raise the age.

Fiona Patten MP, who chaired the bipartisan Legal and Social Issues Committee that oversaw the recent Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System, will meet with the Smart Justice for Young People coalition and accept the petition today. Earlier this year, that Inquiry recommended that the Victorian Government raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Across the country, 211,670 people have signed the petition to raise the age. Members of Parliament and Attorneys-General in every state and territory are being handed a clear message from their constituents that children do not belong in prisons. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are disproportionately impacted by the current, very low age of criminal responsibility, which is out of step with international human rights standards. The evidence is clear that children belong in playgrounds and in schools, supported by their families in their communities, not locked up behind bars in police and prison cells.

Earlier this month, the federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney received the national petition. 

Nerita Waight, CEO for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, said:

“It is clear that there is popular support for raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old, and that’s exactly what a good government would do – immediately. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are overrepresented in Victoria’s youth prisons. Victoria committed to reducing the over incarceration of our children in the new Closing the Gap targets, but it will struggle to meet this goal if it does not raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old. Our children have a right to be connected to culture, community, and Country, but that right is taken away from too many of them.”

Tiffany Overall, spokesperson for Smart Justice for Young People, said:

“This petition confirms that many Victorians agree that raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years is urgently needed, and we encourage the Victorian Government to commit to this step. The younger you arrest or incarcerate children, the more damage that is being done, and the more likely they will be entrenched in the criminal justice system as adults. A terrible outcome for everyone. Instead it’s very important that we put the right supports in place for these children and their families.”

Nick Espie, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said:

“No child belongs in prison. Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from ten to at least 14 is a simple action that the Andrews government can take right now to give our children a brighter future. More than 200,000 Australians have backed the call, and it is time for the Andrews government to listen. The evidence is clear, children belong with their families and in community, not in prisons. The Andrews government must take action now to raise the age.”

Julie Edwards, CEO at Jesuit Social Services, said: 

“It is estimated that children who are arrested before they turn 14 are three times more likely to re-offend as adults than children arrested after they turn 14. By raising the age of criminal responsibility and keeping children out of prison, we can ensure more children have the opportunity to reach their potential and lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Andrew Bruun, CEO at Youth Support and Advocacy Service, said: 

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that every young person is safe and stable, so they have an equal chance to participate in society and meet their ambition and hopes for the future. If a young person is incarcerated at 10 years old, their life is significantly disrupted and it can be difficult to overcome this disadvantage.” 

Media contacts:

Thomas Feng, Media and Communications Manager, YACVic, 0431 285 275, on behalf of the Smart Justice for Young People Coalition

Evan Schuurman, Media and Communications Manager, 0406 117 937, on behalf of the Human Rights Law Centre 

We need commitment and action now to raise the age to at least 14 years

Youthlaw is part of a large coalition of organisations here in Victoria and nationally – all committed to and calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to at least 14 years of age.

 Over the weekend you would have seen reports that Australia’s Attorneys-General have agreed to work on a  proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old.

This announcement confirms that raising the age of criminal responsibility is an important national issue which has considerable support.

However this announcement to plan a proposal to raise the age to 12 years doesn’t take the crucial step of committing to raise the age.

Attorney Generals across the nation promised a plan to develop a proposal to raise the age over 3 years ago, but have as yet delivered nothing. All the while, children across Australia continue to be arrested and locked away.

Disappointingly this announcement focuses only on considering raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, not to at least 14 years. This is contrary to all the best legal and health advice, including from the Australian Medical Association, that says a 14 years old is the absolute youngest age a child should ever be subjected to the criminal legal system.

When a child aged under 14 engages in offending behaviour it should be a call to urgent action. The question should be what does this child and family need in the way of support.

At this stage only the ACT has taken any action in line with this expert advice and committed to raise the age to 14 years. 

If governments across Australia only raise the minimum age to 12 years, then 456 out of the 499 children under 14 years in prison last year would remain locked away behind bars and being harmed.

So we continue to call on and support the Victorian Government to take the urgent further step to commit to raise the age to at least 14 years. Last year there were no children under 12 years in youth detention in Victoria. Now we must build on this and legislate to keep all children under 14 years ( 29 children last year) out of prison.

Tiffany Overall

Advocacy and Human Rights Officer /

Ending the criminalisation of young people

Youthlaw, in partnership with 17 other leading social services, health, legal and youth advocacy organisations from Smart Justice for Young People, have supported a collective response to the current  Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System by the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee (the Inquiry)

Co-Convenors of the coalition Tiffany Overall and Anoushka Jeronimus gave evidence to a public hearing of the Inquiry this week.

They asked the Committee members to imagine a system where there is shared responsibility for preventing offending and re-offending  and keeping the community safe – where Government, education, health, social services and communities all work together to provide early  support to families and help children develop in positive ways and maintain connection with family, community and education.

Victoria must prioritise early support, intervention and prevention, as the most effective ways to promote health and wellbeing and reduce child and youth offending.

They  stressed the importance of ending the criminalisation and overrepresentation in the justice system of Aboriginal children and young people, culturally & linguistically diverse children & young people and young people with experiences of family violence and the out-of-home-care system.

Other key recommendations of the SJ4YP Response are:

  1. A joined up cross government approach to crime prevention that supports young Victorians to lead safe and fulfilling lives
  2. A “justice reinvestment” strategy to reduce the number of children at risk of offending
  3. Building on what we know works to reduce offending and divert children away from the legal system, including cautions, diversion and restorative justice
  4. Minimise Victoria Police members’ interactions with children and young people and ensure members are accountable for fair, professional conduct within the scope of their roles and appropriately resource independent oversight of complaints of police misconduct
  5. Victoria raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14
  6. Victoria legislate to ensure to no child under 16 years can be imprisoned in youth justice detention.
  7. Detention must be a measure of absolute last resort and for the shortest amount of time possible
  8. Urgent reform to bail laws so that young people are only exposed to remand in rare and exceptional circumstances, and only young people over the age of 16 years
  9. Children and young people in youth justice detention facilities must be treated respectfully, humanely and with a focus on rehabilitation, including prohibiting solitary confinement, implementing Government’s obligations pursuant to OPCAT and the provision of an equivalent standard of healthcare to what is available in the community,
  10. A differentiated response to young people under 25 years in the adult prison system, including by expanding the dual track system to include young adults aged 21 to 25.
  11. Judges and magistrates meeting critical core competencies and skills to practice and make decisions that are culturally and gender aware/safe, trauma informed, understand child brain and young person development and neuro diversity, best practice engagement with young people, family violence and recidivism.

SJ4YP members supporting this response

Anglicare Victoria

Dr Diana Johns, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Melbourne University

CatholicCare Victoria

CMY Centre for Multicultural Youth

Federation of Community Legal Centres Vic

Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre Inc along with the Police Accountability Project

Inner Melbourne Community Legal

Jesuit Social Services

Melbourne City Mission (MCM)

Oz Child

The Kimberley Foundation

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service



Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)


YSAS Youth Support – Advocacy Service