Summary

This report looks at young people who were under youth justice supervision in Australia during 2020–21 because of their involvement or alleged involvement in crime. It explores the key aspects of supervision, both in the community and in detention, as well as recent trends. Some data are included from the period during which COVID-19 and related social restrictions were present in Australia, specifically between March 2020 and June 2021.

About 4,700 young people aged 10 and over were under supervision on an average day

A total of 4,695 young people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2020–21 and 9,352 young people were supervised at some time during the year.

Nearly all young people (96%) under youth justice supervision on an average day were aged 14 and over. This was similar for community-based supervision (97%) and detention (95%).

Among those aged 10–17, this equates to a rate of 14 per 10,000.

Most young people were supervised in the community

More than 4 in 5 (84%) young people under supervision on an average day were supervised in the community, and about 1 in 6 (17%) were in detention. (Some were supervised in both the community and detention on the same day.)

The majority of young people in detention were unsentenced

Almost 3 in 4 (72%) young people in detention on an average day were unsentenced—that is, awaiting the outcome of their legal matter or sentencing.

Young people spent an average of 6 months under supervision

Individual periods of supervision that were completed during 2020–21 lasted for a median of 124 days or about 4 months. (This includes time under supervision before 1 July 2020 if the period started before that date.)

When all time spent under supervision during 2020–21 is considered (including multiple periods and periods that were not yet completed), young people who were supervised during the year spent an average of 183 days (about 6 months) under supervision.

Supervision rates varied among the states and territories

Rates of youth justice supervision varied among the states and territories, reflecting, in part, the differences in legislation, policies and practices between each state and territory.

In 2020–21, the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day ranged from 7.3 per 10,000 in Victoria to 32 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory.

Rates of supervision have fallen over the 5 years to 2020–21

Over the 5 years from 2016–17 to 2020–21, the number of young people aged 10 and over who were under supervision on an average day fell by 12%, while the rate of young people aged 10–17 dropped from 19 to 14 per 10,000.

Overall, the rate fell for community-based supervision (from 16 to 11 per 10,000) and dropped slightly for detention (from 3.2 to 2.6 per 10,000).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supervision rates have fallen

Although only 5.8% of young people aged 10–17 in Australia identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, almost half (49%) of the young people under supervision on an average day in 2020–21 were Indigenous Australians.

Between 2016–17 and 2020–21, the rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell from 161 to 117 per 10,000. The rate of non-Indigenous young people under supervision also fell over the period, from 9.5 to 7.2 per 10,000.

The rate for Indigenous young people aged 10–17 in detention declined from 32 to 23 per 10,000 over the period, while the non-Indigenous rates fluctuated slightly, between 1.3 and 1.5 per 10,000.

Young people in remote areas were more likely to be under supervision

Although most young people under supervision had come from cities and regional areas (87%), those from geographically remote areas had the highest rates of supervision.

On an average day in 2020–21, young people aged 10–17 who were from Very remote areas were 6 times as likely to be under supervision as those from Major cities. This largely reflects the higher proportions of Indigenous Australians living in these areas.

Young people from lower socioeconomic areas were more likely to be under supervision

More than 1 in 3 young people (35%) under supervision on an average day in 2020–21 were from the lowest socioeconomic areas, compared with about 1 in 17 young people (6.4%) from the highest socioeconomic areas.

About 1 in 3 young people were new to supervision

About one-third (33%) of young people under youth justice supervision in 2020–21 were new to supervision in that year. The rest (67%) had been supervised in a previous year.

Young Indigenous Australians (72%) were more likely than non-Indigenous young people (65%) to have been under supervision in a previous year.

Indigenous Australians were younger when they entered supervision than their non‑Indigenous counterparts

On average, Indigenous young people entered youth justice supervision at a younger age than non-Indigenous young people.

More than a third (37%) of Indigenous young people under supervision in 2020–21 were first supervised when aged 10–13 compared with about 1 in 7 (14%) non‑Indigenous young people.