Diversion - Smart Justice for Young People

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What is diversion?

Youth diversion includes programs and mechanisms used by police and courts to assist young people to address the underlying reasons for their offending. If completed successfully the police and courts  usually don’t proceed with a charge or a conviction. This is a win win. The young people get the help they need and are very unlikely to re-offend. Evaluations of diversion programs show they are extremely effective and much more cost effective than court convictions and even higher level sentencing such as supervisory orders, probation and detention.

See Fact Sheets for more on Youth Diversion.

Smart Justice for Young People and many youth & community organisations have campaigned for many years for youth diversion to be a mandatory (i.e. legislated) in the Children’s Court, as it is in the adult court system, &  that diversion be adequately funded to provide effective programs to all young people needing them.

Prior to the state election in 2014 the Victorian Government announced it would commit $600,000 for 1 year for a pilot of pre-plea diversion programs in the Children’s Court. During the 2014 election the Andrews Labor opposition also committed to funding the youth diversion pilots, to legislate diversion and invest in state-wide diversion programs.

A one year pilot was implemented and evaluated in 5 sites over  2015-16. The providers were Jesuit Social Services and Youth Support Advocacy Service (YSAS). The pilots were at the courts in Dandenong, Broadmeadows, Sunshine and Werribee. JSS was the sole provider in rural court of  Ballarat and satellite courts of Ararat and Stawell. See the Age article about the pilot

After the succesful pilot in April 2016 we welcomed the Andrews Government’s 2016/17 Victorian Budget commitment to on-going funding of diversion & bail support. Bail support operates similar to diversion linking young people to services and supports they require. This can include housing, mental health and therapeutic services.

  • $5.6 million over two years for a youth diversion program in the Children’s Court, and
  • $1 million plus over two years to expand the Youth Justice Bail Supervision program.

Diversion was legislated

The Children's Court Youth Diversion Scheme was introduced in January 2017 and runs in all Children’s Courts across Victoria.

In September 2017 the Children and Justice Legislation (Youth Justice Reform) Act 2017 was passed in Parliament and created a statutory youth diversion scheme, with Vicotia Police still being required to consent /approve a young person being referred to diversion.

What action do we want?

  • We want on-going funding of diversion beyond the current commitment.

  • identify gaps in support services available in certain Children Court regions to ensure all Victorian young people can access supports they require as part of their Children's Court diversion activities and plan.

  • Adequate funding for bail support programs and bail supervision.

Further info on diversion & cautioning

In 2014 we also produced a video providing the perspective of young people. See this video Youth Diverison Works video.

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