Latest News & Updates

Children need community and connection, not electronic monitoring.

The Victorian Government announced today that they will not be will no longer be removing the reverse onus bail test for children and will be trialing electronic monitoring for children as young as 14 as part of their bail conditions. See the Victorian Government’s media release here.

Youthlaw is deeply disappointed in the Victorian Government’s decision to backtrack on its commitment to remove the reverse onus bail test for all children, which was implemented after the 2017 Bourke Street mall tragedies. This bail law resulted in an unprecedented increase in children being remanded and exposed to the criminal justice system. The presumption on bail is a crucial and fundamental right in any legal system. By pandering to misinformed media and misguided public opinion and commentary on youth crime, we are further harming already highly vulnerable children.

The use of monitoring devices for 14-year-olds not only shaming and stigmatising, but also damaging and ineffective.

Ariel Couchman

CEO of Youthlaw

Young people in Australia need your help.

Youthlaw is supporting Street Smart in aiding young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness

A call to action from our friends at Street Smart:

Did you know that young folks between 19 and 24 face the highest rates of homelessness? It’s a tough reality for around 40,000 kids and young adults aged 15-24 who seek help from homeless services each year. What’s worse, many of them are completely alone, without the guidance of an adult.

Imagine being in a spot where home isn’t safe. Sadly, that’s the deal for many young people in Australia. With a chronic shortage of housing suitable for young people, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place: stick it out in unsafe conditions or hit the streets with nowhere to crash.

That’s where you come in. With your support, we can give these young people a shot at stability and security.

Here is what that looks like:

  • $20 helps provide soft sheets and a towel for a safe night sleep
  • $45 helps provide basic essentials like travel and food vouchers for someone couch-surfing
  • $70 helps a young person access peer support and mentoring programs
  • $150 helps set up a young person leaving homelessness into housing

If you are in a position to please Donate to Street Smart

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.

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