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There has been a steady decline in the number and rate of young people under youth justice supervision in Australia, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Youth justice in Australia 2015–16, shows that there were about 5,500 young people under supervision on an average day in 2015–16, down from almost 7,000 in 2011–12.

This represents a drop from 27 to 21 young people aged 10–17 under youth justice supervision per 10,000 young people overall.
‘Most—84%—of the 5,500 young people under youth justice supervision were supervised in the community, with very few in detention on an average day,’ said AIHW spokesperson David Braddock.

‘And over the 5-year period to 2015–16, the number of young people in community-based supervision on an average day fell by 23%, while the number in detention fell by 11%.’

Despite falling numbers and rates overall, the report shows that Indigenous young people are more likely to be under youth justice supervision than young people who are not Indigenous—and that the gap has widened in recent years.

‘Although less than 6% of young people aged 10–17 are Indigenous, Indigenous young people made up 48%—or about 2,300—of those under youth justice supervision on an average day,’ Mr Braddock said.

‘And while there has been a drop in the rate of Indigenous young people under supervision in recent years, the decline for non-Indigenous young people was proportionally greater, effectively increasing Indigenous over-representation in the youth justice system.’

Indigenous young people are now 17 times as likely to be under youth justice supervision compared with non-Indigenous young people, up from 13 times as likely in 2011–12.

Today’s main report is accompanied by 8 fact sheets, profiling youth justice supervision in each state and territory.

‘Each jurisdiction in Australia has its own youth justice legislation, policies and practices, which are reflected in differences in the rate of youth justice supervision,’ Mr Braddock said.

In 2015–16, the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day was lowest in Victoria at 14 per 10,000 and highest in the Northern Territory at 57 per 10,000.

Over the 5-year period to 2015–16, the rate of young people under supervision on an average day decreased in all states and territories except Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Canberra, 29 March 2017

Further information: David Braddock, AIHW, Tel. 02 6244 1136. mob. 0410 846 770

Full publication: Youth justice in Australia 2015–16