Victoria Legal Aid

Appropriate interventions for children and young people

We are committed to ensuring that the special needs of vulnerable children and young people are recognised and reflected in the justice system.

It is important to ensure that the legal system provides tailored support and interventions for children and young people, due to the vulnerability and special needs of this group. Ensuring children are provided with therapeutic and diversionary support is critical to reducing the likelihood of legal problems into adulthood.

We have significant practice experience and expertise relating to children’s experience of the criminal justice and child protection, family violence and family law systems, which informs our advice to government and reviewing bodies about the development of policy and implementation of programs in these areas.

Justice and law reform activities

Submission to the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into solitary confinement and young people in Victoria

We have contributed to the Victorian Ombudsman’s pilot inspection of Port Phillip Prison, Malmsbury Youth Justice and Secure Welfare Services. We provide advice and assistance to many young people detained in these, and other, facilities. Ensuring the human rights of prisoners at these facilities are respected and upheld – and avoiding the infliction of further trauma – benefits both the prisoner and the entire community. In the report we have highlighted a range of concerning issues and practices including the effect of isolation and solitary confinement conditions on our clients. Violations of these rights are likely to cause additional harm to these people and affect their opportunity for rehabilitation.

Read our Submission to the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into solitary confinement and young people in Victoria.

Joint submission to the Department of Health and Human Services on the Child Information Sharing Scheme Ministerial Guidelines

This joint submission welcomes strategies that encourage people to seek help from services when they need it and empower individuals and communities to make decisions that keep children safe. The submission suggests ways of providing greater instruction to organisations and practitioners involved in the Child Information Sharing Scheme about how to share information appropriately, taking into account the possible risks associated with sharing information. In our view, these changes will support organisations to apply the CIS Scheme effectively.

Read our Joint submission to the Department of Health and Human Services on the Child Information Sharing Scheme Ministerial Guidelines.

Care not Custody – a new approach to keep kids in residential care out of the criminal justice system – 2017

A review of our child protection client data found that, of those aged 11–17 who are placed in out-of-home care, almost one in three young people later returns to us for assistance with a criminal matter. The problem appears to be particularly acute for children placed in residential care. Our Care not Custody report publishes these findings, and shows that:

  • one clear factor pushing children from care into custody is an over-reliance by at least some residential care facilities on call-outs to police to manage challenging behaviour
  • these practices are entrenching children, often from a very young age, in a cycle of involvement with the police and the courts.

We recommend a new approach, providing a clear and consistent framework and better training and support for staff in residential care units to help them manage low-level incidents within the unit, without needing to involve police.

Read our Care not Custody report.

Read our May 2017 press release.

Client information sharing consultation – October 2017

Following our first submission in January 2017, we participated in further consultations on proposed child information sharing law reform. We collaborated with a range of partners in the family violence response and legal assistance sectors to comment on the proposals.

We recommended a range of safeguards to encourage information sharing where the sharing of information promotes safety. Our submission drew on our experience that consent-based sharing promotes safety and encourages children and parents to continue engaging with support services.

Read our Joint submission with other organisations in the family violence response sector.

Read our Joint submission with other organisations in the legal assistance sector.

Submission to Parliamentary Inquiry on Youth Justice Centres in Victoria – March 2017

In March 2017, we made a number of recommendations aimed at reducing the number of young people on remand and improving youth justice centres in Victoria. Our recommendations are based on the view that the way the criminal justice system treats children and young people can have a positive or profoundly negative effect on their rehabilitation, and that the experience of detention can exacerbate the disadvantage experienced by many young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Read our Submission to Parliamentary Inquiry on Youth Justice Centres in Victoria.

Home Stretch campaign for out-of-home care until 21 – April 2017

We support the national campaign to offer state care to young people until they are 21. This would benefit the young people the state is caring for, while also saving the justice system valuable funds. Learn more about the campaign on the Home Stretch websiteExternal Link .

Read our Letter to the Attorney-General in support of Home Stretch campaign, or the accessible Word version.

Child safety and wellbeing information sharing consultation – January 2017

We made a submission to the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s consultation about a new legislative regime for sharing information about children and about a proposal to collect information about every child on a Child Link database. We requested broader consultation about these significant changes. We also emphasised the importance of best practice information sharing that encourages people to seek help when they need it.

Read our Submission to the Consultation paper: Proposed legislative model for child safety and wellbeing information sharing.

See also our subsequent submissions about the same reforms, in October 2017.

Child Protection Permanency Amendments Inquiry – November 2016

We made a submission to the Commission for Children and Young People’s inquiryExternal Link into child protection law changes that came into effect in March 2016. The changes sought to ensure that decisions about the care of vulnerable children are made in a timely way, and promote permanency of care arrangements.

Our submission says that the amendments are not having the intended impact. We recommend a range of changes, to focus on early access to supports and services, particularly in regional Victoria, and to remove fetters on the legal system’s ability to act in children’s best interests.

Read our Submission to the Child Protection Permanency Amendments Inquiry.

The Commission delivered its report to the Minister for Families and ChildrenExternal Link in June 2017.

Parliamentary inquiry into proposed changes to child protection laws – June 2015

In our submission made in June 2015, we recommended the passage of the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Restrictions on the Making of Protection Orders) Bill 2015. We supported retaining requirements that, before a protection order is made, the Children’s Court be satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide services in the best interests of a child. We also recommended further amendments to the Children’s, Youth and Families Act 2005. Where appropriate and in the best interests of the child, these amendments aim to remove unnecessary impediments to family reunification.

Read our Submission to parliamentary inquiry into proposed changes to child protection laws.

Submission on improving youth diversion for young people – September 2012

In our submission made in September 2012, we highlight the benefits of adopting therapeutic and diversionary approaches to youth offending in lowering recidivism rates.

Read Submission on discussion paper on improving diversion for young people in Victoria (Department of Justice).

Protecting Victoria's vulnerable children – July 2011

In our submission made in July 2011 and in oral evidence to the inquiry, we made a number of recommendations to improve the child protection system, with a greater focus on early intervention and minimising unnecessary distress for children.

Read Submission to the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry.

The final Report of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children InquiryExternal Link was tabled in February 2012.

Other justice and law reform activities

Many of our past law reform submissions are available through the VLA public law library catalogueExternal Link .

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 27 April 2022

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