A Public Health Response to Youth Involvement in Violence

Ms Hannah Klose1,2, Dr. Faith Gordon3,4,5,6

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia
2Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Clayton, Australia
3The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
4Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London, England
5International Youth Justice Network
6The Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology Children, Young People and the Criminal Justice System Thematic Group

Children and young people’s involvement in violence has long been framed as an ‘epidemic’ by the tabloid media (Cohen, 1972; Gordon, 2018). Due to a lack of contextualisation, trauma and adverse childhood experiences often are overlooked in favour of individual pathologisation. Since the early to mid-1990s, Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) have both witnessed a ‘punitive turn’ in relation to legal responses. In contrast to these punitive justice responses, we propose utilising a public health approach which identifies experiences of trauma in childhood as the cause of violence. The larger study from which this paper is derived, is the first international comparative study involving stakeholder perspectives (n = 25 participants) in Australia and the UK, to explore the efficacy of a public health approach to address youth involvement in violence.  Participants shared a general consensus that a holistic public health approach has the potential to generate significant reductions in youth violence; however, it also requires the engagement of a range of organisations working together to address factors contributing to violence, through a professional multi-agency approach (Conaglen & Gallimore, 2014). Some organisations in England and Wales are increasingly using the term ‘whole-system approach’ in place of ‘public health approach’ (Craston et al., 2020). However, in this paper, we use the term ‘public health approach’ as it encompasses a broader commitment to evidence-based policy and practice by adopting services that meet the needs of children and young people at societal, community, relationship and individual levels (Fraser & Irwin-Rogers, 2021). The paper focuses specifically on a case study of the youth justice system in Victoria, Australia and considers whether the implementation of a public health approach would place the needs of children and young people at the forefront of policy change.


Dr Faith Gordon is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the Australian National University, Director of the interdisciplinary International Youth Justice Network, Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London and co-founder/co-convenor of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology’s thematic group on children, young people and the criminal justice system.

Hannah Klose is a PhD Candidate and Teaching Associate in Criminology at Monash University, a current Research Assistant at the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre and a previous Research Assistant for the International Youth Justice Network.


Dec 08 2021