Fewer young people under youth justice supervision, but Indigenous over-representation rising

The over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people under youth justice supervision has increased, despite overall rates of youth justice supervision falling, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Youth justice in Australia 2016–17, shows that around 5,400 young people (aged 10 and older) were under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2016–17—this equates to around 1 in 500 young people aged 10–17 in Australia.

‘The overall rate of supervision for young Australians aged 10–17 fell by about 18% over the last 5 years,’ said AIHW spokesperson David Braddock.

While the overall rate has fallen, this has not been seen equally across all groups of young people.

‘Over the 5-year period to 2016–17, rates of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people under supervision fell, although the fall was greater for non-Indigenous young people,’ Mr Braddock said.

This has resulted in even greater Indigenous over-representation in youth justice supervision.

‘Indigenous young people are now 18 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be under supervision, up from 15 times as likely in 2012–13,’ Mr Braddock said.

Rates of supervision also varied across the states and territories.

‘The rate of young people under supervision on an average day in 2016–17 was lowest in Victoria and highest in the Northern Territory, with rates falling over the 5-year period to 2016–17 in all states and territories except the Northern Territory,’ Mr Braddock said.

The rate fell most markedly in Tasmania, dropping by about 43%, while in the Northern Territory, the rate rose by about 4%.

Variations in the rates of supervision among the states and territories reflect differences in legislation, policy and practices in the respective youth justice systems, including types of supervision orders and options for diversion that are available.

‘With data available from 2000-01 to 2016-17, the collection can provide a long-term view of the youth justice system and the young people involved, forming an evidence base that will help us better understand their pathways and outcomes,’ Mr Braddock said.


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