A new approach to youth justice

A new approach required to alter the youth justice trajectory

In response to the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021  passed by the Queensland Government, the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod (Uniting Church in Queensland) calls for effective, compassionate and evidence-based solutions.

“Most repeat young offenders are growing up in entrenched, intergenerational disadvantage. We need to address the complex and long-term causes and resource real long-term solutions.” said the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland, Rev Andrew Gunton

“Family support services are crucial in assisting the whole family when trying to address offending by children and young people. Unfortunately, there are long waiting lists to access these services due to a lack of funding.” he said.

The Uniting Church in Queensland with agencies like UnitingCare Queensland and Wesley Mission Queensland provides services and support to Queensland families and young people coming into contact with police and the courts.

“We have seen that engagement in education is central to developing the skills and capacity that children and young people need to enter and remain in the workforce, which is what really brings change. It is vital that teachers and principals receive adequate training to identify and respond to the trauma related responses they see in the classroom. Increased funding should be directed at the Youth Support Coordinator roles in Queensland Schools and alternative models of education delivery, such as flexi schools.

If we address family issues at an early stage and provide therapeutic, flexible and innovative support for children, we have a better chance of reducing youth offending and increasing the wellbeing and security of the whole community.”

The Uniting Church in Queensland’s position paper on youth justice is available here.

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2 thoughts on “A new approach to youth justice

  1. Lesley

    The Youth Justice Statement of February 2021 signed by Rev Gunton and countersigned by the CEO Uniting care and CEO Wesley Mission Queensland is a beautifully constructed piece of writing – clearly written and free of cliches. It identifies the issues; states the Church’s position; and outlines those outcomes the Church would consider desirable. Yes, it’s great reading and I’m sure the Uniting Church agencies involved are doing all they can to improve the situation for youth in Queensland. As a former teacher one particular item grabbed my attention! More than 1500 prep students were excluded!!! How? Why? What became of them? How did their parents cope? Did the teachers actually involved have any input into the fate of these children?
    But what I would really like to know is – WHAT are we – the laypeople of the Church, the people without positions of influence or authority in the Church – supposed to do about the situation? What CAN we do? It’s all very well to read such a valuable statement, to feel horrified, to nod in sympathy and agreement – BUT WHAT CAN WE ACTUALLY DO? If you don’t show us (or tell us) what we can do, and motivate us – your congregations and other affiliates – to take some grassroots action aimed at achieving practical quantifiable results for our youth, then doesn’t your wonderful Statement begin to seem like just another competently written essay full of hope and good intentions – a statement that fails to challenge us – me anyway – because we, as congregations and as individuals , simply do not know how to respond.

  2. Wayne Sanderson (Rev Dr)

    I am a retired UCA minister and clinical psychologist. In 2011 it seemed to me and to several friends and professional associates that the familiar lobbying and advocacy processes (which had often worked previously) were simply not cutting it with Youth Justice system reform. Both the key challenges and the potential solutions were so multi faceted and all too capable of being lost in bureaucratic quicksand. 23 of us were early retired or late career across 7 disciplines. We were from the trenches. We paid all our own expenses. Across decades of service in various parts of Queensland, we had seen far too much of the horrific circumstances of kids who commit crimes. We knew how critical it was to find common cause with First Nations People in several regions of the state – as well as to address realistically the requirements for a thoroughly restorative justice alternative to the hitherto colonial-retributive justice system which provided an all-to-easy political football for cheap politicians to kick whenever it suited. To the chase – our educators, youth workers, criminologists, mental health and paediatric professionals, assisted by legal researchers and law enforcement advisors took 4 years to build community connection and build a best practice evidence base for a new YJ system for Qld. Come 2015 we engaged with a new state government who actually wanted to hear from us. Part of this was our visiting (in home electorates) of 77 of the then 89 MPs to make our case and establish respectful conversation. Meanwhile, the government embarked on several of the measures we had advocated:
    + Resourcing and implementing the Transition2Success (T2S) vocational skills / trade orientation project.
    + Major increase in capacities for the Restorative Justice Conferencing diversionary project
    + Early intervention by multi-skilled teams with troubled families brought to the notice of police
    + Flexible and resourceful innovations to ensure safety and security for kids on bail pending court
    …….and several other related measures. The youth crime stats across these 10 years tell the BIG story: a marked, progressive decline in ALL categories of youth crime. And – note that since early 2018, 17 year olds have been added into the Youth Justice jurisdiction cohort. Big challenges remain. Enough already!
    There is significant unfinished business. Lesley’s post is most welcome. I recommend that she takes up her concerns with her local church folks – and advances these with her regional Youth Justice Service Centre their local state MP and with related community based youth service agencies. Offer whatever friendship and support which might be locally relevant. The Synod, UnitingCare and Wesley Mission have arrived late in the serious public advocacy field on YJ reform. Their message is cogent, visionary and reflects Gospel values. I hope they are engaging with relevant state ministers.

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