People who commit or allegedly commit a crime when aged 10–17 may be dealt with under the youth justice system. Each state and territory in Australia has its own youth justice legislation, policies and practices, but the general processes by which young people are charged, and the types of legal orders available to the courts, are similar. Some people aged 18 and over may also be supervised in the youth justice system. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may be because they were apprehended for a crime that was (allegedly) committed when they were 17 or younger, their existing supervision continues once they turn 18 (instead of being transferred to the adult correctional system), or a court determines that they should be detained in a youth justice facility due to their vulnerability or immaturity.

Young people may be supervised when they are unsentenced—that is, when they are awaiting the outcome of their court matter or sentencing—or they may be sentenced to supervision after being proven guilty in court. Both unsentenced and sentenced supervision can take place in the community or in a detention facility (see glossary for definitions).

Data on this page are taken from the AIHW’s Youth Justice National Minimum Data Set (AIHW 2020). Numbers include young people of all ages (including those aged 18 and over) unless otherwise specified. Population rates are only calculated for people aged 10–17.

How many people are under youth justice supervision?

On an average day in 2018–19, 5,694 people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision. Among those aged 10–17, this was a rate of 20 per 10,000, or 1 in every 489 in this age group. A total of 10,820 young people were supervised by youth justice at some time during the year (from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019).

More than 4 in 5 (84%) young people under supervision on an average day in 2018–19 were supervised in the community, and 17% were in detention (some were supervised in the community and detention on the same day).

Most (89%) young people under community-based supervision on an average day were serving a sentence, while most (63%) of those in detention were unsentenced.

Variation in rates of supervision

For 10–17 year olds on an average day of youth justice supervision in 2018–19:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were 16 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be under supervision—almost 15 times as likely to be under community-based supervision, and 22 times as likely to be in detention (see Indigenous community safety)
  • males were 4 times as likely as females to be under supervision
  • young people from Very remote areas were 9 times as likely as those from Major cities to be under supervision
  • young people from the lowest socioeconomic areas were 5 times as likely as those from the highest socioeconomic areas to be under supervision.

Among the states and territories, rates of supervision for 10–17 year olds ranged from 11 per 10,000 on an average day in Victoria to 61 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory (Figure 1).

This vertical bar chart shows that the rate of supervision among people aged 10–17 varied among the states and territories, ranging from 11 per 10,000 in Victoria to 61 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory. Rates of community-based supervision followed a similar pattern to all supervision, and ranged from 9 per 10,000 in Victoria to 47 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory. Rates of detention ranged from 2 per 10,000 in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory to 14 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory.

Time under supervision

Individual periods of supervision completed during 2018–19 lasted for a median of 132 days (about 4 months). Completed periods of community-based supervision were much longer than completed periods of detention, with a median duration of 105 days (about 3 months) compared with 8 days. The median duration of completed periods of sentenced detention was longer than unsentenced detention (78 days compared with 6 days).

When the total time spent under supervision during 2018–19 is considered (including multiple periods and those not yet completed), young people supervised during the year spent an average of 192 days or about 6 months under supervision.

Trends

Over the 5 years from 2014–15 to 2018–19, the number of people aged 10 and over who were under supervision on an average day fell by 1% (5,740 to 5,694). The rate for people aged 10–17 dropped from 22 to 20 per 10,000 (Figure 2).

In community-based supervision, the number of young people on an average day fell by 2% (4,879 to 4,767) over the 5-year period. The rate dropped from 19 to 17 per 10,000 for those aged 10–17.

In detention, the number on an average day rose by 8% (887 to 956) over the same period.

This line graph shows that the rate of community-based supervision remained much higher than detention over the 5 years to 2018–19. Overall, supervision has been trending slightly downward (from 22 to 20 per 10,000), in parallel with community-based supervision (which fell from 19 to 17 per 10,000), while detention rates remained consistent between 3 and 4 per 10,000.

Interaction with other services

Many vulnerable young people under youth justice supervision are also involved with other services. Data are available on young people’s involvement with: youth justice and alcohol and other drug treatment services; and youth justice and child protection.

Alcohol and other drug treatment

People aged 10–17 under youth justice supervision at any time between June 2012 and July 2016 were 30 times as likely as the general population to have received alcohol and other drug treatment services during that period (33% compared with just over 1%) (AIHW 2018).

Child protection

Similarly, young people aged 10–17 under youth justice supervision at any time between July 2014 and June 2018 were about 9 times as likely as the general population of the same age to have received child protection services during this period (50% compared with 6%) (AIHW 2019).

Where do I go for more information?

See Youth justice for more on this topic.

For more information on youth justice, see:

References

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Overlap between youth justice supervision and alcohol and other drug treatment services: 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2016. Cat. no. JUV 126. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW 2019. Young people in child protection and under youth justice supervision: 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2018. Data linkage series no. 25. Cat. no. CSI 27. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW 2020. Youth justice in Australia 2018–19. Cat. No. JUV 132. Canberra: AIHW.