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Only a small proportion of young people involved in the Australian youth justice system are aged 10-14 (the youngest group involved in the system), however these young people are at risk of becoming chronic, long-term offenders, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Young people aged 10-14 in the youth justice system, examines the characteristics of this age group, including patterns of involvement with the youth justice system.

It shows that 1,940 young people aged 10-14 experienced youth justice supervision at some time during 2011-12 (excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory, for which comparable data was not provided).

This equates to 17% of young people under supervision during the year, or 16 per 10,000 young people across the Australian population in that age group.

'Of concern is that Indigenous over-representation in youth justice is greatest at younger ages,' said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

Indigenous young people aged 10-14 were about 6 to 10 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people of the same age to be proceeded against by police during 2010-11, compared with 3 to 5 times as likely among those aged 15-17.

'There is some evidence that people who enter the youth justice system at younger ages are more likely to return to supervision in the future, compared with those who enter at an older age.'

Longitudinal data show that 85% of young people in a cohort born in 1993-94 who were supervised at age 10-14 returned to, or continued under, supervision when they were 15­-17.

This was particularly the case for the most serious type of supervision-detention.

'Young people aged 10-14 from the 1993-94 birth cohort who return to supervision at older ages also tend to have more serious involvement in the system and are supervised for longer,' Mr Beard said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 25 July 2013

Further information: Tim Beard, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1270 or 0418 271 395

Full Publication: Young people aged 10-14 in the youth justice system