Investment into Group Conferencing will create safer communities

Jesuit Social Services welcomes the Northern Territory Government’s $18.2 million annual investment of a suite of measures that aim to prevent young people from offending and prevent re-offending among young people who have contact with the justice system.

The investment includes the funding of a Youth Justice Group Conferencing pilot program, to be operated by Jesuit Social Services initially in Palmerston.

“All Territorians are rightly concerned about youth crime and community safety, and these announcements will steer vulnerable young people towards positive pathways, promote the rights of victims and ultimately create the safer communities we all want,” says Jared Sharp, General Manager – Northern Territory at Jesuit Social Services.

Jesuit Social Services has operated Youth Justice Group Conferencing in Victoria since 2003.

“Group Conferencing is a way of allowing young people who have committed offences to come face-to-face with those who have been impacted by their actions – including their victim, family and police,” says Mr Sharp.

“This model helps young people take responsibility and be accountable for their actions. Crucially, Group Conferencing also allows victims to have their voices heard and let the young person know, face-to-face, the impact of their behaviour.”

An independent evaluation of the program in Victoria found that 80 per cent of participants who completed a Group Conference had not re-offended two years later.

Mr Sharp says that it is important to divert children and young people away from the youth detention system wherever appropriate, given the Northern Territory sends more children to youth detention than anywhere else in Australia at a rate of four times the national average.

“The most effective response to dealing with young people is to prevent involvement, and stop future involvement, in the justice system.”

Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards says youth detention has a role to play in society, but as a last resort.

“Our main goal must be to encourage children to take responsibility for their actions, see the impact and harm they have caused to victims and to be supported to be contributing members of society.

“Many young people involved with the Territory’s youth justice system are victims of abuse, violence and trauma, and most have disengaged with education.

“If we support these young people, we can set them on pathways to becoming productive members of society and work towards the safer communities we all want to live in.”

Media enquiries – Kathryn Kernohan, 0409 901 248 or kathryn.kernohan@jss.org.au