Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Authoritative information and statistics to promote better health and wellbeing- ISBN 978-1-74249-228-5; Cat. no. ACM 23; 50pp. http://www.aihw.gov.au/
 Sharp T J, Seeto C, (2010) The Psychosocial Impac
Report author Rachel Aalders says the report provides an important set of nationally comparable statistics.
'Juvenile justice in Australia provides a perspective on young people's experience not available elsewhere.'
Aalders says that the report's findings are not only valuable to juvenile justice departments. 'The reports are used by a range of government and non-government agencies that are concerned with children's welfare and provide valuable data for universities research into juvenile justice.'
Knowing more about the characteristics of young people under supervision, such as their age, sex and whether they are Indigenous, as well as the types of supervision they experience, can help inform policy makers to achieve better outcomes for these young people.
The latest data
The most recent juvenile justice report, for 2007-08, revealed that on an average day in Australia (excluding New South Wales) there were around 4,000 young people under juvenile justice supervision. 'Most of these were under community-based supervision of some kind-only about 10% were in detention', says Aalders.
Rachel Aalders notes that 'Only around 5% of young Australians are Indigenous, but they comprised 40% of those under supervision on an average day'.
Rachel Aalders says that one of the more interesting findings to come out of this year's report was that over half of young people in detention had not yet been sentenced, but were on remand waiting for their cases to be heard.
This figure had increased from just over a third in 2004-05.
'Detention is an option that is ideally reserved for only the most serious offenders, and some young people are placed on remand (rather than released into the community) because of the seriousness of their alleged offences', she says. 'But a growing body of research suggests that an increasing number of young people are ending up in remand because they don't have anywhere to live.'
The number of unsentenced young people in detention varied quite dramatically between the states and territories.
In the Northern Territory, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory around two-thirds of young people in detention were unsentenced, while in Victoria the number was as low as a quarter.
Aalders says that these differences suggest that policies and programs within the juvenile justice system can have a dramatic impact on the number of young people in the juvenile justice system.
Rachel Aalders has already begun working on the next edition of Juvenile justice in Australia.
Changes are afoot which she hopes will make the report even more useful and thought-provoking.
To date, information has only been provided about a young person's most serious supervision order but from now on data on all supervised orders will be collected.
This will provide more detailed information about the extent of young people's involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Aalders is also collecting and analysing offence data from a number of states and territories. 'We hope that this will provide further information about why young people are under juvenile justice supervision, and whether the rise in the number of young people in detention is in fact the result of young people committing more serious crimes', she says.
Where to from here
In the future, there's also the possibility of expanding the information gathered about the young people themselves.
Aalders says that collecting additional data, such as whether young people under supervision have a history of mental health issues or an involvement in the child protection system, will provide policy makers with the information needed to implement early intervention programs and practices that help stop young people from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place.
Juvenile detention numbers on the rise (media release; Wednesday 4 November 2009) (AIHW)
But by 2007 -08, over half were unsentenced,' said Rachel Aalders of the Institute's Child and Youth Welfare Unit.
'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10 -17 years were nearly 15 times as likely to be under community-based supervision on an average day and nearly 30 times as likely to be in detention as their non-Indigenous counterparts', Ms Aalders said.
Further information: Ms Rachel Aalders, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1112, mob.
0407 915 851
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