Contemporary detention environments

Youth detention aims to provide a secure environment for the detention and rehabilitation of children and young people convicted or accused of committing a criminal offence. The Victorian Government takes its responsibility to these children and young people very seriously, and is working to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in detention environments and, where it does occur, to ensure effective responses.

Safe Placement Procedures and Risk Assessments - New case management framework and rehabilitation program

A new approach to case management was implemented across Youth Justice in February 2019. As part of the new Youth Justice Case Management Framework, the needs of every child and young person who receives a custodial order are now assessed. Assessments identify and target needs related to a child or young person’s offending and risk of re‑offending, to help develop individually focused case plans and interventions. Assessment is also undertaken to determine family violence risk, cognitive needs, mental health, and violence and sex offending risk.

The new framework adopts an evidence- and trauma-informed approach to case management. This approach considers complexities such as language and culture, disability, mental health, medical problems, and alcohol and other drug issues. The framework also acknowledges that effective practices require an understanding of the detrimental impact of neglect and child abuse trauma, including sexual assault, on the development of children and young people.

The framework is supported by the introduction of new Youth Offending Programs to target offending behaviour. This includes three new intensive criminogenic programs and three new psychosocial programs, which began in February 2019. The violent offending criminogenic program has also been redeveloped to align with the contemporary evidence base for effective intervention.

Criminogenic programs work to directly address specific offending behaviours including violence, sex offending, family violence, motor vehicle offending, and offending related to the use of alcohol or other drugs. Psychosocial programs are brief interventions available to young offenders, young people on remand and young people on intensive bail. They focus on emotional regulation, anger management, development of communication skills and relationship-building skills.

Cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

The Youth Justice Case Management Framework includes the use of Aboriginal Cultural Plans for Aboriginal children and young people as the first step in the case planning process. The plans provide the basis for intervention and support for Aboriginal children and young people.

Aboriginal children and young people detained in Youth Justice custody have ongoing access to their culture and are strongly connected to Aboriginal family and community through the work of four Aboriginal Liaison Officers and a team leader. Aboriginal Liaison Officers are available 24 hours a day to advise non-Aboriginal staff about their work with Aboriginal young people, inform critical decision making about their care and directly support young people if any urgent situations arise.

Strategies to provide for the cultural safety of Aboriginal young people will also be developed and implemented as part of the development of the Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy, under the umbrella of Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja, the fourth phase of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement.

In line with furthering Aboriginal self-determination, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus is guiding every aspect of the strategy’s development. The strategy’s long-term goal is to have an Aboriginal community-controlled youth justice system, which will strengthen young peoples' connection to family, community and culture and lead to better justice outcomes. A key feature of the strategy is protecting cultural rights and building a culturally safe and inclusive system.

The Koori Youth Justice Taskforce is auditing the case files of 296 Aboriginal children and young people involved with the youth justice system over a six-month period. This offers a real opportunity to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in youth justice. The review will consider all aspects of their care, education, health, connection to culture and safety, and how this can be improved in the future. 13 regional forums have been held throughout Victoria between June and October 2019 to enable community to have their say in the process.

Strengthening of training and practice in Youth Justice Centres

Pre-service training is delivered to all Youth Justice custodial workers and includes dedicated modules on trauma-informed practice, mental health and the Child Safe Standards. The Victorian Government is further strengthening the training provided to staff through the development of a Youth Justice Learning and Development Strategy, which will improve skill development across the workforce.

The new primary health and primary mental health service run by Correct Care Australasia commenced in February 2019 and has added more nursing and General Practitioner services at both custodial centres. Under the new services, there are more trained staff to administer medications, nurse-led primary health care is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and an Aboriginal Health Worker is operating across both sites.

The new Custodial Forensic Youth Mental Health Service also commenced in February 2019 and provides specialist clinical mental health assessment, treatment and support services for young people in custody. The service is run by Orygen Youth Health and delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists and other allied mental health clinicians.