Western Australia

Youth justice systems, policies and programs

Key policy directions

Key policy directions in youth justice in Western Australia include:

  • Providing mandated services in accordance with the Young Offenders Act 1994.
  • The Youth Justice Framework 2015-2018 outlines how the Department of Corrective Services (the Department) will work to keep the community safe by helping young people in the justice system to lead productive law-abiding lives.
  • The Youth Justice Board implements mechanisms and services to achieve a reduction in reoffending, with a particular focus on programs designed for Aboriginal young people.
  • Reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the justice system with a particular focus on collaborative partnerships and innovative service delivery in regional areas.
  • Transformation of Banksia Hill Detention Centre (Banksia Hill) with a focus on culture, services and operations with an emphasis on education services and a new operating model.

Key agencies 

Youth Justice agencies

Youth Justice Services (YJS) is a division of the department and its work is informed by the principles and functions outlined in the Young Offenders Act 1994 and the department's strategic plan Creating Value Through Performance 2015-2018.

YJS is responsible for the safety, security and rehabilitation of young people both in community and custody. The core objective is to reduce reoffending among young people through:

  • Services to divert young people away from the criminal justice system
  • Programs and services for young people on orders in the community
  • Programs and services in custody

Youth Justice Services' staff work in the community and in Banksia Hill to improve outcomes for children and young people in contact with the justice system.

Youth Justice Services will always:

  • prioritise the safety of the young person and the community
  • consider what is in the best interests of the young person and their family
  • deliver services to young people that recognise vulnerability, developmental levels, gender, and cultural and religious beliefs and practices
  • be informed by evidenced based practice
  • deliver a comprehensive 'through care' model of practice that is informed by:
    • the needs of each young person and is age, gender, culturally and linguistically appropriate
    • recognition and understanding that many young people in the justice system have experienced multiple traumas and that rehabilitation and care will need to address the trauma's causes and symptoms
    • the identification of protective and risk factors
    • communicate clearly and in a timely manner with all key stakeholders
    • partner with other agencies and organisations to address complex issues contributing to youth offending in the planning and delivery of services
    • engage with Aboriginal people to seek, promote and support culturally competent and Aboriginal-designed and -led initiatives that reduce reoffending.

Police

Young people who come into contact with the justice system do so through contact with the police. The police have the option of issuing a caution, referring the matter to the Juvenile Justice Team (JJT), or referring the matter to court.

Courts

The Children's Court of Western Australia deals with offences alleged to have been committed by young people aged 10 to under the age of 18.

The Court may impose one of following penalties:

  • no punishment and no conditions
  • no punishment but with conditions
  • fines, costs, restitution and compensation
  • responsible adult bond
  • good behaviour bond
  • referral to a juvenile justice team
  • Youth Community Based Order
  • Intensive Youth Supervision Order (with or without detention)
  • Adult Community Based Order or Adult Intensive Supervision Order
  • custodial sentence (imprisonment or detention).

Young people in the Perth metropolitan area whose offending behaviour is linked to drug use can apply to participate in the Children's Drug Court.

Key elements, programs and services

Diversion

Youth and Family Support Services (YFSS) are staffed by Prevention and Diversion Officers who provide targeted outreach support for families and young people at risk of entering or escalating through the formal justice system. In regional areas YFSS also provides bail assistance to young people who are detained in a police lock up.

Youth diversion services provide services to young people aged 10-18 and their families who offend or are at risk of offending due to varied circumstances such as truancy, family breakdown, substance abuse, anti-social behaviour, poor social skills and low self-esteem. Service provision includes a combination of diversion supports, informal counselling and mentoring services.

Juvenile Justice Team (JJT) referrals are generated by police or the Children's Court. JJTs arrange meetings with the young person, their families, victims and police to determine an action plan. If the young person successfully completes the action plan, they do not receive a criminal record.

The Metropolitan Youth Bail Services (MYBS) and YFSS provide services such as point of arrest intervention and WA Police caution follow-up. These services aim to divert young people away from custody and ensure they make all reasonable efforts to ensure they attend court.

Case management

YJS case management is the day-to-day management of young people subject to community based orders. It provides the framework for the planning and co-ordination of activities and services directed towards the young person with the objective of meeting statutory and policy requirements. Case management provides the structure in which interventions are provided to the young person. YJS develop and maintain productive and collaborative relationships with stakeholders, and work to support across-agency approaches to address the complex issues and needs of young people.

YJS have introduced a risk and needs assessment tool that identifies the young person's risks and needs. The results are used to inform the level and types of interventions to ensure that the court report plan and case planning activities are focused in the appropriate areas of need. Changing Habits and Reaching Targets (CHART) is a structured casework intervention program utilised by YJS. CHART provides a way of working with young people subject to Supervised Release Orders, community based orders with supervision, detention sentences and long term remand.

Programs for Indigenous young people

All YJS services and programs are required to be culturally competent.

The following programs have been funded by the Youth Justice Board:

The Wirrapanda Moorditj Ngoorndiak Program focuses on Aboriginal males between the ages of 12 to 19 who are detained in Banksia Hill. Moorditj Ngoorndiak is a mentoring program that has a focus on working one on one with young males and their families for up to four months whilst in custody and when released into the community.

The Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre Yiriman Youth Diversion Program involves two types of interventions targeted at reducing reoffending behaviour:

  • a five-day camel trek accompanied by elders and mentors with support from Kimberley Community Alcohol and Drug Services staff; and
  • a six-week 'Caring for Country' work readiness program for youth with little or no work experience.

Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre will run both types of activities several times each year.

As One Nyitting for the Korrlangka Dreaming and Waalitj Nyitting Programs deliver cultural pride and leadership skills to young people in Banksia Hill and back-to-country camps in the community.

The Horsemanship Program delivers on the job training and work experience for Aboriginal young men in the Pilbara area.

Supported accommodation and bail programs

The provision of bail services is tendered to non-government organisations in the metropolitan and some regional areas. The service provides short term accommodation placements for young people who are eligible for bail and have no suitable responsible adult or accommodation. It also provides day programs and transport to appointments for young people.

Pre- and post-release support

All educational and vocational programs that a young person engages in while in custody are aimed to be compatible with the young person's abilities and areas of interest. A young person can be referred to a variety of personal development and treatment programs such as:

  • Drug and Alcohol Intervention
  • Parenting Skills Program (for young people who are parents or parents to be)
  • Sex Offender Treatment (individual counselling with centre psychologist)
  • SAM-Save-A-Mate (preventative group programes)
  • Individual psychological counselling
  • Personal Development Programs: cultural, employability courses, and recreational activities.
  • Step Up (violent offending group program)

Youth Justice Officers provide support to young people exiting detention on Supervised Release Orders. As part of their release plan young people are referred to a range of services to assist with their rehabilitation in the community.

Other programs and services

The Program Delivery Plan defines the way that services and programs are selected, prioritised and delivered to enable the management of individualised programs in YJS. The type of programs and services required by YJS are required to target the individual needs of young people and to achieve a reduction in the reoffending rate. The five identified areas are: rehabilitation (criminogenic), emotional wellbeing, education wellbeing, education-training-employment, life skills-health-development and bail services.

The YJS Programs tender and procurement process recently commenced and is encouraging culturally competent program design and delivery.

Psychological services

A team of psychologists provides individual face-to-face counselling to young people and their families, both to young people in custody and those in the community (both metropolitan and regional areas). Services are offered to custodial and community-based centres in the following areas:

  • forensic and clinical psychology
  • child development
  • behavioural management
  • management, family and community interventions
  • risk issues and managing vulnerable young people.

The following programs are offered to the community:

  • individual psychological counselling
  • referrals to community support services

Regional services for young people

Regional Youth Justice Services are located in regional areas across the state and provide:

  • the management of young people on community orders or Supervised Release Orders
  • an extended-hours family support service for young people at risk of reoffending and those who commit minor offences
  • an extended-hours bail service to help police find a responsible adult to provide bail for young people who are suitable to be released from the lock-up
  • emergency short-stay accommodation for young people who have been given bail but have no-one suitable to bail them or no suitable accommodation
  • a dedicated juvenile justice team to help young people in the early stages of offending and keep them away from the formal justice system
  • education and counselling services.