A critical reflection on ‘giving voice’ to justice-involved young people

Shelley Turner1

1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Directly including justice-involved children and young people in research emphasises that they are worthy of being listened to and may help counter the silencing of their voices once they become mandated clients of the state (Naylor 2015).  Young people’s accounts of their experiences in the youth justice system may also serve to ‘humanise’ these for others, and provide new and unique insights for policy and practice (Drake, Fergusson & Briggs 2014; Barry 2006, 2009, 2013). It can also be an important avenue through which to help realise the intentions of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989; for children to express their views about matters that pertain to them and for these views to be considered by decision-makers (Wilson & Wilks 2013).  However, for researchers who want to work with justice-involved young people, the interface between the concurrent social labels of ‘young person’ and ‘offender’, presents some unique and specific challenges (Holt and Pamment 2011). Yet, there is very little in the literature about how to manage the methodological, ethical and practical challenges of trying to ‘give voice’ to the experiences of justice-involved young people. This paper discusses some key challenges faced by the researcher in a study that tries to privilege the voices and perspectives of justice-involved young people and a critical examination of the responses taken to these issues.

Shelley Turner is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Monash University and the lead curriculum designer for the Masters qualifying program.  She has worked for more than fifteen years in youth justice in New South Wales and Victoria in direct practice, clinical management and senior policy roles.


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