State needs unified solution to youth crime

Problems in Victoria's youth justice system won't be solved by short-term solutions

January 27 2017Statement by Bishop Philip Huggins, Vicar-General Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.

Problems evident in Victoria’s youth justice system will not be solved simply with new prisons and tougher sentences, and certainly not by just blaming politicians or police.

We need to replace the current fragmented system, which works within timeframes that are too short to be effective, with a strategic whole-of-Government and whole-of-community approach.

There is a growing cohort of young people who are dysfunctional at many levels, whose backgrounds may involve domestic and family violence, unstable housing, problems of addiction, and perhaps an inability to find positive social identity through education and durable employment.

Senior police have said for years that, most of our interventions come too late, after these youths have already fallen into aspects of crime.

Last year the Chief Commissioner of Police organised a youth summit that provided a very fruitful conversation. We must build on this, particularly to examine how society can better link the preventative and responsive work of the health, education, community services, mental health, housing, police and youth justice services with the work of such non-Government agencies as Anglicare and Brotherhood of St Laurence.

There are no short-term solutions. We need a long-term bipartisan approach, based on a 20 year time-line so policies and programs can assist young people, their families and communities find healthier lives.