South Australia

Youth justice systems, policies and programs

Key policy directions

The key objectives of the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI), South Australia, are to:

  • support independence and participation
  • make our communities stronger
  • provide the best services.

Within DCSI, Youth Justice has the following strategic directions:

Our Vision: Children and young people in the justice system are inspired to change and positively participate in their community.

Our Mission: Contribute to community safety by leading collaborative and evidence-informed statutory services to children and young people in the justice system to reduce re-offending and acknowledge victims of crime.

Key policy directions to meet these objectives are:

  • comprehensive and evidence-based criminogenic case management underpins all Youth Justice case planning and service delivery
  • design and deliver programs / services to ensure that children and young people with high risk offending, complex and/or specialist needs receive a tailored response
  • build partnerships to contribute to transition for children and young people out of Youth Justice back into their communities
  • victim and community safety goals underpin security and behavioural management, case  management, youth justice planning and service delivery
  • children and young people who commit crime are provided with opportunity for restoration / restitution to victims of crime and the community
  • partnerships will be strengthened to support family and carer capacity for children and young people during detention and whilst under orders in the community
  • sector and community partnerships are fostered to achieve effective and positive outcomes for children and young people
  • Youth Justice programs and services are culturally competent and responsive to the diverse needs of the client.

Key agencies

Youth justice agency

The Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) through the Youth Justice, Community and Organisational Support Division was responsible for providing tertiary youth justice services in South Australia during 2014–15. The department's main responsibilities were to support the rehabilitation of young people and to contribute to reducing their re-offending.


In South Australia, the police are the first point of contact for young people entering the justice system. The police may issue cautions (either informal or formal) to a child or young person who has admitted to an offence. They may also divert young people who admit an offence to a Family Conference, which is provided by the Courts Administration Authority.


In South Australia, children and young people who are alleged to have committed an offence and who are not diverted to a Family Conference are primarily dealt with by the Youth Court under the provisions of the Youth Court Act 1993. The Youth Court is presided over by a judge of the District Court.

A young person may also have their matters referred to a higher court subject to the seriousness of the offence (for trial as an adult) or if there is a pattern of serious repeat offending.

Key elements, programs and services


Young people who commit offences that are considered too serious for an informal or formal caution may be directed to attend a Family Conference. To be eligible for a Family Conference, the young person has to admit to carrying out the offence. If the charge is denied, the matter is referred to the Youth Court.


Client supervision involves the use of statutory authority as the means of working with Youth Justice clients to meet their mandate requirements and, where necessary, provide interventions to promote their desistance from offending. Supervision tasks may include monitoring, compliance management, electronic surveillance, case management and program participation. Supervision occurs in the community and in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC, Kurlana Tapa- New Path).

Case management

Case management is a flexible, planned and individualised approach to service delivery that provides the client with choices and maximises the efficient use of formal and informal resources in service provision. Case management focuses on engagement, consistent face-to-face contact, dynamic worker-client relationships, goal setting and goal achievement. Case management promotes desistence from offending and places substantial emphasis on a rehabilitative approach.

In South Australia, a continuum of care approach is used in the application of case management for those exiting custody into community. This involves guideline documents for staff in conducting case management to ensure 'continuity of care' for these individuals, and specifically how to facilitate re-integration and re-connecting to the community. This is designed on a case-by-case basis to individualise the required service responses and referrals for each young person. From a staffing model perspective, in South Australia our community-based and custodial case management teams are co-located to enhance information sharing and continuity principles are embedded through informal mechanisms as well as joint peer discussions and supervision.

Offence-specific and therapeutic programs

A range of rehabilitation and support programs are offered to young people who are under the supervision of Youth Justice in either the community or custody. Examples of rehabilitation programs currently offered include PLUS+, Changing Habits and Reaching Targets (CHART) and counselling by the Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA).

The PLUS+ program is an intensive, group-based, criminogenic treatment program based upon cognitive behavioural principles. The program is implemented by staff of Youth Justice Psychology Services (YJPS) who are the principal facilitators of the program. The primary objective of the program is to help young people acquire, develop and apply a series of social problem-solving, interpersonal, and self-control skills that will enable them to better manage potential difficulties in their lives, and to avoid future reoffending. It is delivered in a series of four separate modules: Emotions; Relationships and Communication; Problem Solving; and Understanding Behaviour. Currently, the program is available to young people serving either remand or detention orders in the AYTC, who are assessed as moderate or high risk of re-offending and who have assessed needs relating to the relevant module(s).

CHART is a structured, individualised intervention program used as part of case management/statutory supervision. It uses a skills-oriented, cognitive behavioural focus to challenge offending behaviour for young people who require a moderate to high level of intervention to reduce their risk of re-offending. The focus for delivery is to use participatory learning methods and to be responsive to client needs, motivations and learning styles.

DASSA provide individual counselling for young people in custody with alcohol and other drug misuse issues. This service utilises cognitive, behavioural and motivational enhancement-based principles and is suitable for males and females.

A range of developmental, health and social integration programs are also available across Youth Justice in South Australia including D-Stress, Ignition, and Step Out.

The Ignition program is facilitated by the Service to Youth Council - Helping Young People Achieve (HYPA), a non-government partner, and is designed to improve the social and independent living skills of young people. This program can also be a pathway to the Integrated Housing Exits Program which provides young people with independent accommodation for 12 months with support from workers from HYPA.

Step Out is a mentoring program facilitated by Red Cross Australia which aims to support young people who are currently, or who have previously been, in custody to articulate their goals, reconnect with their community and to pursue positive lifestyles that minimise future risk of reoffending. Young people involved in the program commence working with mentors while in custody and continue into the community for up to 12 months.

The D-Stress program is a brief, six session psycho-educational group program delivered by YJPS in partnership with the AYTC Senior Programs Coordinator. The D-Stress Program was designed to assist young people to improve their ability to manage stressful experiences by improving: understanding of the body sensations, emotions and thoughts that may be related to perceived stress; ability to recognise when they feel 'stressed'; and knowledge of both self-regulation techniques and cognitive and behavioural strategies that may support effective stress management. It is currently delivered three times per year during mid-term school holidays, with the girls and young boys units in AYTC.

The Youth Justice Program Review Panel reviews all programs delivered.

Youth Justice Psychology Services

The YJPS provide assessment and rehabilitation for young offenders, integrated with case management services and supporting training centre operations. The model of service delivery includes:

  • Provision of clinical/forensic psychological assessments to assist case planning and case management. YJPS assessments cover background history and patterns of offending, and include analysis of risk, and recommendations for interventions to reduce the likelihood of further offending by a young person.
  • Delivery of individual therapeutic interventions and group-based rehabilitation programs.
  • Consultation services to management and staff regarding behaviour support for residents of the AYTC.

YJPS prioritises young people who are at high risk of re-offending, and who have been convicted of serious offences. Individual offence focused intervention may be provided for referred Youth Justice clients who have been convicted of violent, sexual or high frequency repeat offending. YJPS intervention is specifically focused on addressing the underlying causes of a young person's offending behaviour, with the aim of reducing the likelihood of further offending.

Programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people

DCSI acknowledges the important role culture plays in the positive growth and development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people within their family, cultural community and wider community. Aboriginal young people and their families are provided with access to a range of cultural support services. Aboriginal young people in the AYTC (Kurlana Tapa) and the community receive specialist Aboriginal programs that focus on problem solving and the positive aspects of their cultural identity.

Youth Justice has an Aboriginal Cultural Inclusion Strategy which includes specific objectives and strategies to Strengthen Collaborative Partnerships and Improve Family and Cultural Connection. The Circles of Trust engagement tool assists case managers to gather information about Aboriginal clients, their family, cultural group and community supports. The information gathered through this tool promotes an understanding of the young person's kinship and family structure. It can assist to identify strengths and issues within this structure, the young person's connection to culture and community and the impact of grief and loss.

Metropolitan Aboriginal Youth and Family Services (MAYFS) provide a culturally specific service to support young Aboriginal people to make good choices and have successful futures. The teams work across metropolitan Adelaide and also provide services within the AYTC. MAYFS provides community outreach programs, within the community or at our premises located at Regency Park.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) Journey Home

  • The Journey Home is a free program that helps young Aboriginal people and their families create pathways out of the justice system. The Journey Home team is part of the CAMHS (SA Health). The program aims to: Improve the social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal people and their families who are involved with the youth justice system.
  • Reduce the number of young Aboriginal people at risk of ongoing involvement with the youth justice system.
  • Create flexible pathways out of the youth justice system.
  • Strengthen a young Aboriginal person's connection to culture and community.
  • Increase the number and strength of partnerships with services and community groups relevant to the program.

The program helps young Aboriginal people and their families connect to local support services in their community, works with families and communities to address factors contributing to a young person's involvement with the youth justice system, provides outreach support for young people and families in rural and remote areas, and facilitates gender-specific programs to young people.

Pre- and post-release support

Pre- and post-release case management services for young people detained in the AYTC focus on providing a range of education, training and vocational opportunities, with a strong through-care approach with community linkages. Education programs, both in the AYTC and in the community particularly emphasise literacy and numeracy as base skills, but also include a balanced curriculum (from within the Australian Curriculum) offering, science, studies of science and environment (SOSE), art, life skills, work skills, health, physical education, woodwork and metalwork, accredited by the South Australian Certificate of Education. Vocational courses, accredited by the South Australian Certificate of Education and /or TAFE SA are also offered and include hospitality/ kitchen operations, building and construction, horticulture, dry wall construction, automotive (small engines) and music.

A large number of case-managed Innovative Community Action Networks courses and programs are also offered to young people released from training centres, all of which foster engagement, capacity and pathways to employment.  

Other programs and services

In addition to rehabilitation and therapeutic programs, a range of recreational and personal development programs are offered to young people in the AYTC including:

  • Road Awareness Program promoting road user safety (includes, driver, cyclist and pedestrian) through engaging and confronting presentations and talk and question time from a survivor of a motor vehicle accident.
  • Health promotion sessions.
  • Sexual health information sessions informing young people on their rights, rape myths and where to access supports if needed.