Saturday, June 15, 2024

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HomeIssue 1Most comprehensive overhaul of youth justice system: Gunner

Most comprehensive overhaul of youth justice system: Gunner

p2113-Michael-GunnerLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – Fifty-two new youth diversion workers, a greater focus on victims, and record funding for diversionary programs (including boot camps) is at the heart of the most comprehensive overhaul of the youth justice system in the history of the Northern Territory.
An additional $18.2m (including $10m in new funding) will be spent annually to help stop crime before it happens and break the cycle of crime that has been going on for far too long.
The youth justice system is broken and today is the first big step towards fixing it. The major components of the reform package include:-
The 52 youth diversion workers based in Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs will be co-located with police, education and NGO providers. This workforce will commence immediately and be operational in all regions within three months. The officers will:-
• Provide professional support to courts and police to improve sentencing and diversion decisions;
• Provide early-intervention, case management and co-ordinate after hours youth activities in each region;
• Support enforcement of bail conditions to protect the public and reintegrate young people back into the community.
We will provide An additional $6m a year for NGOs to deliver evidence-based diversion programs that work (more than doubling their funding).
These programs will include wilderness programs and boot camps either in the NT or other jurisdictions, focussing on skill development, road safety and drug and alcohol education. They will provide diversion options for police and the courts.
For the first time in Territory history young offenders on bail will be provided with individualised support and a comprehensive range of programs to stop reoffending and meet bail conditions.
This support will be provided by youth diversion workers as well as the NGO sector, including options for accommodation while on bail.
There will be an expansion of youth justice and victims’ conferencing so victims can tell the offender about the impact of their behaviour.
This conferencing is used in all Australian jurisdictions and is known to significantly reduce the likelihood of re-offending when compared to prosecution. Victims of crime are more satisfied with the justice process when they are given a voice. This will be established within three months.
We are working with justice, NGOs and the Royal Commission on implementing these reforms so that young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system are dealt with in line with community expectations, but also are given the best chance of rehabilitation so they don’t become long-term criminals.
We want these reforms to hold young people accountable for their actions and break the cycle of crime that has been going on for far too long. Police do a great job catching problem youths but we need to help them stop crime by supporting the enforcement of bail conditions and providing more options for rehabilitation.
The NT Government last month announced 18 additional, experienced frontline officers will be allocated to target youth crime as part of Taskforce Sonoma – a Territory-wide operation. 120 additional police will be employed this term of Government.
Michael Gunner
Chief Minister
Sir – The government’s response to the juvenile crime crisis fails to address the immediate crime crisis and avoids the tough measures required to deal with repeat offenders.
”It doesn’t address the hard-core repeat offenders that account for 90 per cent of property crimes, who have repeatedly gone through diversion programs or been in detention.
Bail officers will not be able to be with offenders 24/7 – as opposed to electronic monitoring which is a constant deterrent to offending while on bail or home detention.
It shirks the job of setting youth on a better path – the most effective way to reduce repeat offending is through vocational training and education in conjunction with traditional diversion and boot camps.
And it fails to short-circuit the current crime wave as repeat offenders will still be granted bail and the new policy will take three months to fully implement. Increased electronic monitoring and a more visible police presence right now are required to secure businesses and homeowners being hit by this crime wave.
The Government also needs to target some of its funding towards measuring the outcomes of its expenditure so the community is able to monitor the effectiveness or otherwise of its scheme.


  1. So Mr Higgins reckons it’s not tough enough. Does he think that these kids should continue to be tear gassed in their cells?

  2. Mr Higgins you said: “It shirks the job of setting youth on a better path – the most effective way to reduce repeat offending is through vocational training and education in conjunction with traditional diversion and boot camps”. Following are the results during your previous mandate:-
    Crime against property:
    Year 14/15 3872
    Year 15/16 4420
    No more comments.

  3. The following passage is drawn from “Do Indigenous Youth Have a Dream” published in 2004:
    What is absolutely clear is that incarceration does not operate as a deterrent, particularly for youth.
    Others have written about how a stint in the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre in Darwin is now, sadly, a rite (right?) of passage to manhood for some remote communities.
    I have written about the attractions of a dry bed, colour TV, three good meals a day, air-conditioning, and a well equipped gymnasium, being a highly attractive alternative to being flood-bound in a remote place for the wet season.
    I have also pointed out that offending rates soar around November, supporting my contention (perhaps I’m wrong, and it simply represents the onset of the Mango Madness season).
    I have argued for boot camps, in the bush, building cattle yards or roads, on hard tucker like salt beef and damper (or catch your own), sleeping in swags, and supervised by hoary old lore men.
    That might be a deterrent to offending, and it might reduce the gaol populations whilst restoring community pride too.
    I know communities that want to take on such responsibility.

  4. Bob Beadmen, I think the answer for these unique issues does indeed lie with these “hoary old lore men”. Unfortunately the legal system have fallen over themselves chasing any underage child who feels wrongly done by.
    If they win, they win, if they lose, they lose nothing. If the hoary old men grab a kid for their own good or the good of others, they are dragged before the courts to defend themselves.
    Danielle Loy was a lawyer who was pushing for traditional law, and was on the right track, but was unable to implement her ideas.
    More and more do you hear elders calling for the right to take these kids out bush, and teach them respect, away from the temptation from the bright lights, but the CEOs of the agencies would not have a job for long if that happened.
    The ones with the answers are discredited and dragged down by the very people they need to partner with.
    The abhorrence of the whole filthy industry is the real tragedy here. As Erwin heard in a previous story, where he heard the excuse about a duty of care, there is hardly a duty of care offered to the kids, it is more the duty of care towards their managers, and their managers’ managers. Do that right, and there is a promotion on the way.

  5. And while we are at it – youth are also going to Adelaide but according to St Johns Ambulance they cover every state except SA – rather ironic since Flinders Medical students come up here for training as part of their course and the specialists mostly come from Adelaide.
    The other irony is that although the hospital sends people down south by plane when they need specialist treatment you have to be in Alice Springs to get that so if an accident occurs down near the border and the person has St Johns cover in the NT they to get cover have to be taken to Alice Springs but in serious cases then transferred by air ambulance to Adelaide – wasting precious time which just may save a life.
    How ridiculous is this system.
    Another irony is that the people in Alice Springs records can be accessed in Adelaide but possibly not in Darwin since the Darwin doctors are not coming here.
    Who made this decision – the same ones that started a branch of the CDU in Sydney but not in Adelaide – both places have their own unis so why the discrimination?
    This is the most pathetic situation possible. Why don’t they do something about it before some die because of their stupidity and cruelty.
    Young and old are at risk, so who is responsible?


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