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Rural Victoria missing out on benefits of youth diversion

Jesuit Social Services recently received funding to operate a pilot program, in partnership with YSAS (Youth Support and Advocacy Service), aimed at diverting young offenders from the criminal justice system, which will be implemented in three different locations.

Jesuit Social Services is excited about this initiative and is calling on the state government to ensure all young people have access to similar services.

“The new pilot will enable judges to refer young people into programs that address the causes of their offending while holding them accountable for their actions,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“This will build on the successful pre-Court diversion option, Youth Support Service that diverts young people who come to the attention of police and who need additional support. Youth Support Service is delivered by a number of providers, including YSAS, and is available in a limited number of areas across Victoria.”

Analysis of Victoria’s rural and regional Children’s Courts shows how successful diversion has been.

All the Courts in locations with a Youth Support Service had decreased numbers of children and young people appearing before the Court between 2012-13 and 2013-14:

Ballarat -26%

Mildura -27%

Bendigo -14%

Shepparton -1%

Geelong -19%

However, many rural and regional locations without a program had significant increases:

Ararat 12%

Bairnsdale 28%

Swan Hill 64%

Wonthaggi 13%

Colac 56%

Wodonga 9%

Ms Edwards says the statistics are a clear indicator that the state government must legislate for and fund a range of diversion programs accessible to all young Victorians.

“These programs are often the step ‘in time’ that can prevent more serious problems. Weeks out from the state budget, we call for substantial investments into diversion programs to ensure they are available to all young Victorians.”

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