Priority 2: Young people are safe and secure

Young people experience security, are safe from harm (discrimination, neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse) and live in a stable home that is affordable and nurturing.

Our promise, Your future sets out a path for a safer, fairer and more equitable Victoria. We want every young person to feel safe at home, in school, online, catching public transport or walking around their neighbourhood. This means more than physical safety – it is also about safety to express yourself without fear of judgement, rejection or harassment.

More than one in six young people have been through some type of homelessness1. LGBTIQ+ young people, Aboriginal young people, young people experiencing family violence and young people leaving the out-of-home care system are all more likely than other young people to experience homelessness2.

Under Our promise, Your future, we are building on transformative reforms such as the Roadmap for Reform: children and families and Victoria’s Big Housing Build. Young people will have the stability and safety they need to focus on navigating their youth and becoming independent. This often means stepping in early so young people and their families do not come up against multiple barriers to a safe and nurturing home.

Our promise, Your future recognises that discrimination affects young people’s ability to feel safe, particularly young people from marginalised backgrounds.

Under this strategy, young people will have targeted programs to prevent sexual violence that better consider gender. We are working towards a justice and family violence system that better recognises young people as victim survivors in their own right. A young people’s toolkit will include a more detailed understanding of their rights, from consent and their consumer, workplace and legal rights, to the right to information as a carer.

Through Our promise, Your future we are working to make our justice system more trauma informed. Our approach will recognise the developmental stage young people are at and move through as they grow older. We will provide greater community support and have better ways to prevent young people from coming into contact with tertiary and crisis systems. Our most vulnerable young people need care and the opportunity to thrive.

Our commitment to young Victorians under priority 2 is …

2.1 Work with the youth and community sectors to position the voices of diverse young people with lived experience as key evidence in decision making across policy, practice and governance in a range of tertiary and acute services.

2.2 Continue to roll out changes to transform the children and families’ system. This will include a focus on early intervention, wraparound supports and evidence-informed models of care. These models will improve support for key groups including Aboriginal young people and families.

2.3 Ensure we support the needs of young people in care and that every young person has the stable foundation to begin their transition move to independence. This will include expanding the Home Stretch and Better Futures programs to extend state support up to the age of 21.

2.4 Expand supports for young people aged 10 to 13 years in and at risk of entering the youth justice system. This will prevent more or escalating offending through linking young people with positive life opportunities, education and improved family supports.

2.5 Build protective factors and reduce the risk factors that lead to over-representation of Aboriginal young people and multicultural and multifaith young people in the justice system. Build on successful place-based models that partner with families and communities and self-determined initiatives for Aboriginal young people.

‘[If I could change one thing about Victoria] I would have the safety and security of young people at the core of decision making.’
– Survey respondent, 22–25 years old

2.6 Apply a gender lens to ensure girls and young women at risk or in contact with the justice system are supported, particularly girls and young women who are victim survivors of sexual assault and/or family violence.

2.7 Deliver community programs for young people to prevent sexual violence including through education about affirmative consent.

2.8 Improve the response of the justice and broader service systems for young people who have experienced or used family violence or, experienced or committed sexual harm.

2.9 Increase young people’s understanding of consent, their rights and the different forms of family and sexual violence.

2.10 Support young people’s access to legal services and advice.

2.11 Improve safety for young people travelling on public transport, with a focus on young women, including new ways of reporting and communication campaigns.

2.12 Lessen the impact of fines on young people experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. Pilot new ways to deal with offenders and update guidelines for enforcement agencies.

2.13 Roll out the recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to deliver 500 new supported housing places for young people with mental illness. Co-design this program with young people with lived experience of mental illness.

2.14 Recognise the unique needs of young people within the Victorian Government’s new Ten-year social and affordable housing strategy.

2.15 Develop a Victoria Police youth strategy to improve understanding of the factors that lead to offending and victimisation. Set up a coordinated approach with police to better meet the needs of young people.

‘We were too young to go through what we went through but it happened. We aren’t too young to be involved in what happens next.’
– Roundtable participant

2.16 Implement Victoria Police’s Schools Engagement Model to promote positive and effective relationships between police and schools that is inclusive and promotes the safety of young people and the community.

2.17 Improve referrals from police to community services in direct response to the reasons young people have contact with police.

2.18 Roll out more diversion initiatives to reduce the contact children and young people have with the formal criminal justice system. Focus on over-represented groups including Aboriginal young people, and ensure initiatives are developed using principles of self-determination.

2.19 Develop statewide programs and services targeted to adolescents using family violence, including in the home and in intimate partner relationships.

2.20 Support workforces to better recognise when young people are affected by, or using, family violence and help them to access the right support when delivering services to young people across education, health, housing, community and justice services.

‘Your home should be the place you go to feel safe and that’s hard to feel if your family is not doing the best.’
– Survey respondent, 12–15 years old

‘You can’t tell if what is happening to you is normal when you come from another country and don’t speak the language … I wish that I had known it was okay to speak up and that I didn’t have to worry about being abandoned.’
– Roundtable participant

Case study: A prevention-first approach builds young people’s strengths

Young person, 24 years old

My story begins by leaving a broken and traumatic home at age 16 and becoming homeless in a world I did not know nor trust.

I eventually found out about Centrelink but I was put through a long, complicated and negative experience. After a while I was able to stand on my own two feet to some degree.

Only three years later after much financial struggle and an unstable living situation, the streets found me again. This time I was fortunate enough to go through a program in a dedicated and outstanding private organisation. By the end I was successful in re-establishing my financial security but this time 100 per cent independent, stable and in a great state of mental health for the long term.

This could have been achieved much earlier, easier and without the unnecessary struggles back when I was still at home, had the government understood the issue of domestic abuse and its correlation with homelessness. Youth homelessness is mostly caused by severe struggles at home that are not self-inflicted.

Trying to navigate where to go for help and what to apply for is quite difficult, unclear or, like in my case, I was not even aware they existed. We need government to understand the complexity of young people’s situations and to address them with specific or unique services, not one way for all.

Many young people are rejected or given insufficient or ineffective services that only have short-term effects. Our welfare system needs to cater for the complexity of their circumstances and make the process more simplified, faster and understandable to make them feel more comfortable, supported and cared for appropriately.

They also need ease of access to supports of their choice when they need it and without troublesome requirements such as access points. We also need an unprecedented awareness campaign of these services that reaches out to the youth.

We have the answers, we have the knowledge and the know-how … we just need the government to listen to the experts and take action.


[1] Hall et al. 2020

[2] Fildes et al. 2018; Hill et al. 2020; National Youth Commission Australia 2020