New South Wales

Youth justice systems, policies and programs

Key policy directions

Key policy directions in youth justice in New South Wales include:

  • Providing diversion under the Young Offenders Act 1997, including warnings, cautions (administered by the New South Wales Police Force) and the Youth Justice Conferencing scheme (administered by Juvenile Justice).
  • Providing bail support and the Bail Assistance Line to reduce the number of young people in detention on remand when conditional bail could be granted.
  • Providing multi-agency approaches to managing complex needs.
  • Expanding pre- and post-release support, including the establishment of the Pre-Release Unit at Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre.
  • Providing early intervention through the Youth on Track program which provides case management for young people who is over 10 years of age and identified by police and education as at risk of further entering the criminal justice system.
  • Implementing a standardised criminogenic risk, needs, responsivity model across community, custody and Youth Justice Conferences. This will inform levels of supervision for young people on community supervision.

Key agencies

Youth justice agency

The Department of Justice is responsible for providing youth justice services in New South Wales. These services are provided by the agency Juvenile Justice NSW.

Juvenile Justice NSW is responsible for:

  • supervising young people sentenced to community-based or custodial orders
  • supporting young offenders to meet the conditions of bail
  • supervising young offenders who are on conditional bail or remanded in custody
  • preparing reports for the courts to consider in determining sentences
  • managing the Youth on Track early intervention program
  • administering Youth Justice Conferencing.

Juvenile Justice NSW operates 35 community offices and 7 youth justice centres.

Juvenile Justice NSW shares responsibility for addressing the offending behaviour of young people with a number of other agencies including Justice and Forensic Health Network; Ageing, Disability and Home Care; Department of Family and Community Services; the Department of Education and Communities; Centrelink; and the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. It also funds a number of community agencies through the Joint Support Program to assist young people involved in the youth justice system and their families.


The New South Wales Police Force is responsible for detecting and investigating crime. Police may choose to use alternatives to court proceedings, such as warnings, cautions or referral to Youth Justice Conferences, as set out in the Young Offenders Act, or may commence court proceedings under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987.

Juvenile Justice works closely with police, particularly in relation to transporting young people and managing incidents within youth justice centres. Police also provide specialist support to young people through Police and Community Youth Clubs, and engage young people through a variety of recreational and social programs.


Court proceedings against young people who are alleged to have committed an offence and are not eligible to be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act are governed principally by the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act.

Possible outcomes for young people appearing before the court include:

  • unsupervised options-cautions, fines, recognisance
  • community-based orders-recognisance, probation or community service orders
  • custodial orders
  • youth justice conference.

Key elements, programs and services


The Young Offenders Act provides for warnings, cautions and Youth Justice Conferencing in New South Wales. Not all young people are eligible for a Youth Justice Conference. Some categories of offence, such as sexual assault, serious drug offences, breaches of apprehended violence orders, traffic offences and offences causing death, can be dealt with only by a court.

Work and Development Orders

Work and Development Orders (WDO) are a State Debt Recovery Office initiative, allowing young people to satisfy debt due to outstanding fines through voluntary work, or approved courses or treatment.

Juvenile Justice NSW is an approved sponsor for WDO and is one of the largest participating organisations in the scheme.

Juvenile Justice's involvement with WDO enables young people in custody or subject to community supervision to be screened for outstanding fines. If outstanding fines are identified, Juvenile Justice NSW then assesses the eligibility and suitability of a WDO and develops an action plan to enable young people to satisfy their debt.

Case management

Casework interventions aim to address the specific needs of young people under supervision. Community and custodial staff work closely together to provide services to ensure that a young person's period in custody is used to address their offending behaviour. Services are focused on maximising the capacity and opportunity of the young person to choose positive alternatives when they return to their community.

Offence-specific and therapeutic programs

Juvenile Justice NSW provides a range of programs and interventions within the community and custodial environments that are designed to address the needs of young people. These include counselling and group-work programs that focus on alcohol and other drug issues. Some examples of programs offered include:

  • the Community/Custodial Services Intervention Framework and Framework for Programming, which helps staff to develop and deliver programs to tackle offending behaviour such as violent and aggressive behaviour, alcohol and drug misuse
  • the Changing Habits and Reaching Targets (CHART) program, a cognitive-based intervention designed specifically for caseworkers to engage and work with young people who require moderate to high intervention to reduce their risk of re-offending.

Juvenile Justice NSW has also developed a range of partnerships to assist young offenders. These include the delivery of education and health services within Juvenile Justice Centres, post-release support and employment skills programs, disability support, health and mental health support, and legal services.

Programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people

To ensure a coordinated approach to addressing the over-representation of Indigenous young people in the youth justice system, Juvenile Justice NSW developed the Aboriginal Strategic Plan. Included are a number of programs to address issues for Indigenous young people in the youth justice system, including DthinaYuwali, and My Journey My Life.

DthinaYuwali is a group work program for Aboriginal young people with substance-related offending.

The My Journey My Life program was developed in 2000 in partnership with Gilgai Aboriginal Centre, as an intergenerational violence prevention program aimed at reducing the incidence of violence against older people. In 2014, it was revised, the Program is aimed at motivating young people to make changes to violent behaviours; educating young people about criminal behaviours; and providing skill development/practised learning in non-violent strategies.

Supported accommodation and bail programs

Juvenile Justice NSW provides bail support and remand interventions to help young people meet their bail conditions and to reduce the number in custody on remand. Community-based staff work with young people, court officials and other service providers to ensure that, where appropriate, young people are able to remain in the community while being supervised for compliance with bail conditions.

Brokerage funds are used to buy services-such as accommodation, support services, clothing, and health care-that help young people meet their bail conditions and stay out of detention. Resources are also allocated to help young people access mental health services, and alcohol and other drug services.

Juvenile Justice NSW operates the Bail Assistance Line (BAL) in collaboration with the New South Wales Police Force. Police liaise over the phone directly with a Juvenile Justice Bail Co-ordinator. The BAL aims to divert young people from remand to bail.

Pre- and post-release programs

Juvenile Justice NSW provides pre- and post-release casework in collaboration with other agencies, particularly the Department of Education and Communities, NSW Health, Department of Families and Community Services.

The Waratah pre-release unit at the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre prepares young people in detention for their release back into the community.

The Joint Support Program supports young people released from custody by facilitating successful reintegration into their communities. Juvenile Justice NSW funds non-government organisations to provide post-release support in a range of areas including accommodation, employment, training and education, income, recreation, and issues around family or relationships and peer association.

Alcohol and Other Drug programs

The Juvenile Justice Alcohol and Other Drug treatment pathway is composed of three evidence-based programs, designed in stages according to a client's level of risk of re-offending. It was developed by the National Drug and Research Centre (NDARC) in partnership with Juvenile Justice.

  • Stage 1 is a drug education program that aims to create awareness of substances and of consequences related to their misuse.
  • Stage 2 is designed to promote problem recognition and treatment readiness in participants.
  • Stage 3 is a high-intensity treatment program for participants who have been assessed as being 'treatment ready', or willing to give change a chance.

Program evaluation

Core programs and interventions are evaluated either internally by the Research & Information Unit, or by external organisations. Pre- and post-program assessments are used for offending-focused programs. Juvenile Justice is undertaking an audit and review of program structure and delivery.