Senior leaders from Jesuit Social Services will next week embark on a study trip to New Zealand to learn more about innovative approaches to dealing with adults and young people who have contact with the criminal justice system.

The trip to New Zealand continues the organisation’s determination to take a discerning approach to justice policy, analysing evidence of effective approaches and being prepared to “think outside the box”. This includes looking at justice systems in other jurisdictions and learning what international colleagues have found works – and what doesn’t – in their local context.

“We are heartened by the New Zealand Government’s commitment to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent over 15 years, which shows true leadership,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“It is true that New Zealand faces many of the same challenges we do here in Australia, like a rising adult prison population, over-representation of indigenous populations and ageing prison infrastructure. That said, we also know that the country is doing some excellent work in reducing the number of young people who have contact with the system and ensuring that prison is always the last option.

“This is shown in the fact that over the past 10 years, the number of children and young people in court has dropped by 64 per cent. New Zealand also boasts innovative responses to offending. The country’s Maori and Pasifika courts are world-leading examples of how to provide culturally-specific responses to young people who find themselves in trouble.”

Jesuit Social Services’ CEO Julie Edwards, Executive Director – Advocacy and Strategic Communications Cath Neville and General Manager of Justice Programs Daniel Clements will be in New Zealand between 31 March and Wednesday 10 April and will meet with politicians, advocates, judges, academics and other justice experts during that time, as well as visiting adult prisons and youth justice facilities. The trip will take in Wellington, Auckland, Rotorua and Tauranga, and the senior staff will observe a number of courts including proceedings at Maori and Pasifika courts.

#JusticeSolutions New Zealand follows a similar study trip in 2017 where leaders from the organisation explored effective youth justice facilities and approaches in parts of Europe and the US, looking for fresh ideas to bring back to Australia, where prison numbers have been growing steadily. This #JusticeSolutions trip was a great success, investigating different approaches and stimulating ideas on what might work in the Australian context. Findings were published in the report #JusticeSolutions: Expanding the conversation. “The successful systems we saw shared a positive emphasis on rehabilitation, re-socialisation and skill development to ensure young people who have contact with the system have the best opportunities to get their lives back on track,” says Ms Edwards.

“Also crucial was the fact that staff members who worked with young people were experienced and skilled in trauma-informed practice and developing positive relationships with young people to reform behaviour.

“We look forward to exploring what is working in New Zealand, particularly in terms of supporting young people, and sharing these findings with decision makers and the community on our return.”

Please keep an eye on our website for details of an event later in the year to release our findings.