Less than three weeks away from the Northern Territory election, and with the Territory’s youth justice system in the national spotlight, Jesuit Social Services has urged the incoming Government to prevent vulnerable children from becoming entrenched in the youth justice system.

Jesuit Social Services’ election platform, Creating a just and safe Northern Territory, calls on parties and candidates to commit to two key areas for action to tackle the root causes of disadvantage.

“The footage of young people being brutalised within the Northern Territory’s youth justice system, shown on ABC TV’s Four Corners last month, was horrific to see and we can only hope it leads to significant change and reform within the system,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“We have long advocated for more humane treatment of vulnerable young people in the youth justice system, and our election platform outlines a number of initiatives and reforms that would assist young people to address the underlying issues behind their offending and ultimately steer them away from lifetime involvement with the justice system.”

This includes further investment in bail support programs and bail accommodation, which would serve to reduce the disproportionate number of young people on remand in the Northern Territory, and an investment into restorative justice approaches including funding of Youth Justice Group Conferencing across the Territory.

“If the next Northern Territory Government truly wants to create safer communities, it must look at evidence that shows restorative approaches are more effective in reducing re-offending than keeping young people in detention,” says Ms Edwards.

“An urgent shift away from costly, punitive law-and-order approaches towards restorative practices will not only save the Territory money, but will also work to prevent re-offending and help vulnerable young people to become productive members of society.”

The election platform also focuses on the need to provide a humane and therapeutic response for people with cognitive and psychiatric impairments in the justice system.

“The indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairments impacts many but has a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and Jesuit Social Services calls on the Territory government to end this arbitrary detention.”

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