Changing the sentence: overseeing Queensland’s youth justice reforms
Ms Marian McCreath1
1Queensland Family and Child Commission, Brisbane, Australia
In 2019 the Queensland government launched a new youth justice strategy emphasising prevention and diversion from court and custody.
Less than 12 months later, elements of the strategy were being modified in legislation and in April 2021, following some tragic road deaths, further legislative changes were introduced, including GPS monitoring and a limited presumption against bail for children charged with particular offences.
Throughout this period, the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) was working on a report looking at the original (2019) reforms and proposing options for future investment.
To develop our report, the QFCC interviewed 43 front line service agencies, a small number of families and children, reviewed some specific projects and undertook quantitative data analysis and a media analysis.
The QFCC’s report was published in June 2021. It suggests that future funding should be focussed on two ends of the spectrum
- reducing the factors that may contribute to a young person committing crime (prevention and early intervention); and
- specialised services for the small number of young people already in the formal system who are committing most of the crime.
The youth justice system in Queensland will be more effective if decision-making about services and support for Aboriginal children and Torres Strait Islander children is returned to local communities and community-controlled organisations.
We also found the system is more likely to be effective if at-risk young people are viewed through a rights and well-being, rather than criminal, lens. While the child rights agenda may be seen by some in the system to be an emerging challenge, it can create opportunities for change and growth and reduce the possibility of enduring harm to children.
The presentation will also briefly discuss what is happening next in relation to independent oversight of Queensland’s youth justice system.
Marian has worked in the Queensland public service for seven years primarily undertaking projects and reviews relating to system or organisational change. In May 2019, Marian joined the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), a statutory body with responsibility for the safety and well being of children and young people, particularly children in need of protection or in the youth justice system. Marian was the project lead for QFCC’s report Changing the sentence: overseeing Queensland’s youth justice reforms, published in June 2021.