Latest News & Updates

Youth Detention royal commission into NT has lessons for Victoria

Victorian Cherry creek youth facility is largely unsupported by NT Royal Commission recs

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (NTRC) found shocking and systemic failures occurred over many years and were known and ignored at the highest levels. It calls for the shutting down of Don Dale and a major overhaul and rethink of youth justice, child protection & detention.
Many might assume the disturbing practices revealed are limited to the NT, however, similar behaviours and practices have been documented in all youth detention facilities throughout Australia including Victoria.
In Victoria, staff working in youth detention facilities have 3 weeks of training & do not need to have any experience with youth. This year it was revealed that Victorian youth in detention have regularly been locked down and isolated as a form of discipline and when there are staff shortages.  Education was only introduced relatively recently in Victoria & not to all detainees.
Briefings on the new Cherry Creek facility have repeatedly emphasised security and control. As yet, we in the youth sector are unconvinced much will change in terms of staff training or assessments on entering custody. At odds with the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the facility will be very large and it will not be close to the homes and communities of young people being detained.
Some of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report are:
  • Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12
  • No detention for a child under 14 except in exceptional circumstances
  • Put into practice detention as a last resort and greater use of diversion into the community
  • Comprehensive professional medical and psychological assessment on being taken into custody
  • Young people to be detained in facilities that are close to home, small and therapeutic in focus
  • All young people in detention have access to ongoing education in custody and post-detention
  • Youth justice officers to have demonstrated experience in working with young people and to be  provided with adequate relevant training
  • Family contact to be prioritised and facilitated
  • Prohibiting extendable periods in isolation over 24 hours, or its use as a punishment
  • Banning the use of tear gas and force or restraint being used to discipline those in detention
  • Much greater accountability of officers including body-worn video cameras.

Read the NTRC’s full report. 


Support Team Youthlaw for Run Melbourne!

Join Team Youthlaw or Donate Today for a great cause

Join Team Youthlaw and run, walk or roll for a great cause.

Race day is 30 July 2017 and we invite you, your family and friends to enter Run Melbourne and support Youthlaw.

Why get involved?

Whether you join the team or donate, you will have a lasting impact on Victoria’s most vulnerable young people. Your fundraising will also help us deal with some imminent federal funding cuts to the community legal sector and ensure we can continue to fully fund our regional outreach and Children’s Court family violence work.

How can I get involved?

Join Team Youthlaw
Run, walk or roll for a good cause with staff and friends of Youthlaw.
Race day is 30 July 2017.

1. Sign up to Run Melbourne
2. Join the Youthlaw team

Donate today
Even if you can’t be there on race day, click the link here to support the Youthlaw Run Melbourne Team with your donations.

How can I find out more?

If you have any questions or queries or would just like to get in contact, feel free to send us an email at


Let’s help James take off for the Birdman fundraiser

This weekend one of our lawyers, James, is launching himself and his home-built-flying-machine off of a four metre platform into the Yarra River.

We’d love for you to get behind James and Youthlaw and donate to back his superhuman efforts and support us!

On the day of the event (this Sunday at 11.30am) all donation amounts are given a metre value, which means that your donation will increase James’ flight distance. The longer the flight distance, the better chance to ‘win’ more money towards Youthlaw.

In the lead up to Moomba James has been hard at work wielding a hot-glue gun and dealing with burnt fingers. James is a great lawyer, but not as confident in his crafting capabilities. With your help we can rally his spirits for one last serious crafting session, and even increase his flight distance!

So please help James and Youthlaw out by donating today. Small donations are welcome (so are big ones!). Please share this with your networks as the event is on this Sunday!”

And come down and watch his flight in the Moomba Birdman Rally at Birrurung Marr, this Sunday 12 March at 11.30am.…/but-i-fly-james-tres…

Juvenile justice to Corrections Victoria paves the way to more youth crime not less

Today the Victorian gov’t announced moving youth justice including youth detention facilities under the control of Corrections Victoria. This is before their own review is complete and before others are handed down. This move if unchecked will quickly pave the way for dismantling a differentiated response to juvenile offending. It will only lead to more crime not less.

The youth justice facilities at Malmsbury and Parkville have struggled to deal with a cohort of young people engaged in high repeat offending moving through the system over the past 18 months. Their presence has highlighted deficiencies that have been observed by the youth justice sector for years, an overly punitive culture, inadequate physical structure and inadequate staffing.

These deficiencies were identified in numerous reports to Government over many years. The latest , the 2016 Muir report, warned that a lack of permanent, experienced and competent staff and increased lockdowns could trigger escalated behaviours. The report cautioned against introducing tough-on-crime responses and instead should retain a vital focus on the rehabilitation of young offenders. The report recommended a major physical upgrade.

Producing better youth justice outcomes requires a look at the facts. Our youth justice system has to date been held up as exemplary, with low detention rates, diversionary features to reduce re-offending and a dual track that allows young vulnerable adults to be kept in the youth justice system rather than serve their time in adult jail. As for youth crime, the number of individual youth offenders in Victoria is on the decline and has been steadily declining over the past 10 years, as it has in most industrialised countries.

Repeat Victorian Governments have been slow to make any significant improvements to the youth justice system.  Now is an opportunity to look at effective models of youth detention and think outside the law & order tool box.

We only need to look at the highly successful Spanish juvenile system over the past 20 years to see what works.  They are dealing with high youth crime & high unemployment and yet need to use few restraints, have few violent incidents inside, no escapes and don’t use batons or handcuffs. Instead they have a high ratio of staff comprising mostly educators & psychologists and a lower number of security guards.  They have a 75% re-integration rate. They are even effectively turning around youth violence in the home, which is a crime on the rise here.

Key to this successful model is:

  • Staff interacting with young people are educators and are not guards (educators have no role in physical restraint & semi educators can use restraint if required);
  • Ensuring that security guards are employed but that they do not interact with the young people;
  • Providing adequate staffing. For a 61 bed facility they employ 80 educators, 20 semi educators and 7 security guards (solely security & good order);
  • Mandating all staff have a degree qualification;
  • Requiring initial induction for young person is set at 20 days and includes full medical & psychological assessment;
  • Ensuring each young person is seen by a psychologist daily
  • Every young person has an individual plan that is consistently monitored.
  • Guaranteeing young people are in a facility as close as possible to their family and that family contact is encouraged and not unreasonably withheld;
  • Managers/Directors of facilities are psychologists;
  • Having a mix of facilities to meet the complexity and diversity of the youth justice population. An example of this is their secure residences that have a ratio of 11 educators to 10 young people providing individualized programs of psychological support, education and vocational training
  • Ensuring facilities are relatively small ( max population is 90); and
  • Requiring facilities include autonomous sections that enable young people to prepare for leaving detention.We encourage all teams in the current political football match to call time on a stifling debate about youth justice and provide leadership towards a new model so that our youth detention system tangibly improves. Ariel Couchman
  • Director
  • Most impressively, the Spanish facilities not only produce better outcomes, but they cost one-third of the common law & order variety in most of the world.