7th February 2024 14:04
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (14:04): 

I rise to speak to this motion. There are two focuses in this motion: first is the concern about the rates of youth crime in Victoria, and second, the level of government expenditure on the youth justice system.

The first concern alleges that youth crime rates are at their highest in 10 years. Indeed there have been some recent tragic incidents involving youth crime, including in my own region of South-Eastern Metro.

But when we look at data collected on crime, we get a clearer picture of the long-term trends. On the whole, there is less crime than there was a decade ago, including for those from 10 to 24 years of age. Victoria Police also stated that overall youth offending remains below COVID levels.

This rhetoric of an out-of-control crime wave is harmful. We should not be treating youth crime this way. Doing so just stokes community fears and fuels further violent behaviour.

The second concern in this motion relates to expenditure. It notes that compared to other jurisdictions Victoria spends much more on detention-based supervision and that rehabilitation measures are more often than not unsuccessful.

Proper rehabilitation services increase the average cost of a young person per day in detention. Isn’t it a given that you would have to spend more money on rehabilitation rather than the young person ending up back in detention? Relative to population, Victoria’s total expenditure on youth justice is less than the national average. Victoria has the lowest rate of young people in youth justice detention, being 1.1 per 10,000 compared with the national average of 2.7 per 10,000.

Unfortunately, rehabilitation is not foolproof, and often those that enter the justice system do end up returning. But what this is testament to is the need for justice reinvestment and preventive measures. We should be focused on getting young people on pathways away from the criminal justice system before they even enter it. In Victoria we have had calls from major figures, including the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass and Victoria’s former deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic, to investigate justice reinvestment, particularly for the role it can play in reducing youth offending.

A part of these measures needs to focus on community connection. Often young people join gangs or similar groups to find connection when they do not receive it in their family home or their immediate social circles. Measures that focus on indirect lifestyle and social factors often have a significant preventative benefit when it comes to young people entering the criminal justice system.

Community initiatives like child healthcare services, early childhood education and programs for at-risk young people all make a difference in addressing the underlying causes of crime. Initiatives like Empowering Communities, which invests in the Casey community in my region, help to address the local issues impacting youth crime and perceptions of safety. These localised initiatives get the community onboard and are more likely to be effective than top-down measures.

We commend the government on its work to keep people out of the criminal justice system. Focus on justice reinvestment, providing funding for community organisations and social support mechanisms are all tools this government needs to use better to support our young people. This motion stokes fear. It does not seek to make our community safer through support services and justice reinvestment.

Accordingly, we will not be supporting this motion.


Similar Posts