The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) recently announced their annual Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards (ACVPA). The awards recognise good practice in the prevention or reduction of violence and other types of crime in Australia. 12 winners were awarded in 2018, each demonstrating high levels of innovation in the prevention of violence by both police services and community groups across Australia.

– by Peter Murphy

When considering the recognised programs targeting youth and juveniles, several observations can be made. The first is that keeping children and young people engaged in education or meaningful work is key to preventing criminal activity or recidivism. Two programs – one police and the other community – found positive ways to keep children and young people engaged:

  • Queensland Police’s South West District Blue Light Shearing Project teaches shearing skills to vulnerable young people in the Cunnamulla community in regional Queensland. Importantly, it provides the skills that are needed by local industry and provides a transition to employment in one of the few industries with solid growth prospects.
  • Tasmania’s Out Teach Mobile Education won a Gold Award for its program, providing specialist teachers to work one-on-one with students who are in contact with the justice system. The program works closely with Save the Children’s youth justice mentoring program. It uses a mobile classroom in outdoor and informal settings to build pathways to mainstream education or vocational training. Evaluation of the program found that over 80% of participants left the justice system.

Both programs also highlight the importance of working intensively with the young people who are most at risk. The cost of doing so is significant. However, the cost to the community of children and young people entering and remaining in the justice system is far greater and usually continues over a long time.

A second observation is that approaches that bring together a range of agencies and community groups have the ability to make a significant difference. The Mac River Centre Residential Rehabilitation Program, Alcohol & Other Drugs, New South Wales (NSW), is a partnership between Mission Australia and three NSW government departments. It provides a range of intensive interventions to address offending behaviours and substance abuse. Experience shows that programs which address the totality of a young person’s issues are best undertaken by mixed teams.

A final observation is that crime and violence disproportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Speak Up, Be Strong, Be Heard, Queensland program seeks to deal with the problem of youth sexual violence and abuse in Cape York communities. Its success relies on culturally appropriate and inclusive ways to respond to local indigenous needs. These approaches are necessary for programs that seek to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous children and young people in the justice system.

The ACVPA is a great vehicle to highlight good practice in preventing violence and crime. The awards further highlight that the fundamentals of good practice can be well understood to enable success.

In 2017 Noetic partnered with the Indigenous Affairs Group of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to develop a Best Practice Guide on Youth Justice. The Guide covers juvenile justice practice nationally and internationally in addition to discussing key issues, critical barriers, best practices and innovation in this area. You can read the Youth justice Effective Practice Guide here.