MEDIA STATEMENT: State Government must waive COVID-19 fines handed out to 2000 Victorian children

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A coalition of forty Victorian youth advocates, legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander services and other organisations have today called on the State Government to
withdraw an estimated $3 million in COVID-19 fines handed out to around 2000 children and
young people during the pandemic.
The Smart Justice for Young People (SJ4YP) coalition says that excessive fines are
punishing young people who have already suffered significantly due to the pandemic and will
bear the impacts on their employment, education and mental health for years to come.
“Lumping children and young people with enormous fines only creates stress and anxiety
during arguably the most difficult year of their lives,” said Tiffany Overall, SJ4YP
“Asking children, young people and their families to pay a $1652 fine on top of all the
challenges COVID-19 has presented with job loss, disrupted education and social isolation is
cruel and unnecessary. If unpaid, there is the risk that these young people will be pulled into
the justice system.
“We know that many young people received multiple fines that they will never be able to
Victoria Police data from September 2020 revealed that 16,565 COVID-related fines had
been issued, of which 1,403 were handed out to under 18 year olds, and 4,298 to 18-24
year olds. The SJ4YP coalition understands that the official number is now over 2000 for
under 18-year-olds, and over 9,000 for 18 to 24-year-olds. The amount of COVID-19 fines
can vary from $200 to $5000.
“A health-based response that uses warnings and education to help young people
understand health advice would have been far more effective and compassionate,” Tiffany
SJ4YP praised the Victorian Government for using an evidence-based approach to keeping
the community safe from COVID-19, and urged them to extend that response to how they
deal with children and young people in breach of the rules.
“We understand completely that this has been an unprecedented and challenging year. But
the fact is, fining kids doesn’t keep them safe. The COVID-19 rules are changing regularly,
and the young people we work with often aren’t aware of the latest advice.
“We are helping many young people who received fines while they were homeless,
experiencing mental health episodes, recently arrived in Australia with little or no English,
and those in residential care,” said Tiffany.
“I don’t believe any Victorian would support fining children millions of dollars during a
pandemic. It’s time to show compassion and reverse these fines.”
In addition to all fines being waived for children and young people under 18, SJ4YP is calling
for fairness, leniency and compassion for young people aged 18 to 25 and a waiver or review
of their fines, particularly if they have experienced disadvantage, mental illness and health

Media Contact:
For interviews or media requests, please contact Lanie Harris, Media and Communications
Adviser, Youthlaw and Thomas Feng, Media and Communications Manager, YACVic, 0431 285
275, on behalf of the SJ4YP Coalition.

Interviews available with experts and leaders from the Coalition. Case studies are available
About Smart Justice for Young People:
Smart Justice for Young People is a coalition of over 40 leading social services, health, legal,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and youth advocacy organisations working together to
create change for children and young people who come into contact with the justice system.
The group works together to shift political and public attitudes, to advise government on
innovative evidence-based approaches, and to challenge policies and practices that harm
young people.
The coalition is informed by the experiences and voices of young people, experienced
practitioners on the ground, leading researchers and health experts, and communities across Victoria.