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10 Feb 2016

Youth Justice Administration Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 2 December 2015.)

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 11:18 :47 ): I rise to speak to the Youth Justice Administration Bill 2015. I indicate that the opposition will support the second reading of the bill and does not, at this stage, envisage any amendments.

This bill follows from a government announcement in December 2014 that it intended to introduce legislation to capture the various provisions in youth justice under one uniform act. The bill before the chamber reflects this initiative as it seeks to consolidate all youth justice administrative functions into one legislative framework. We are advised that the ultimate aim is to bring the administration of training centres and community-based supervision services up to date and in line with contemporary operational standards.

In practical terms the bill seeks to regulate what occurs when a young person is ordered into and placed in detention. It aligns legislative powers for administrative management, particularly of the youth training centres with the Young Offenders Act 1993, addresses gaps in the current legislation and seeks to contemporise other relevant legislation to better reflect best practice. It is intended to clearly outline through regulations what is expected through culturally appropriate practice, for example, culturally appropriate assessment and case planning, which is inclusive of family, kinship and community in decision-making.

There has also been specific inclusion in the bill that the Youth Justice Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander principle is to be observed. This will mean that services must remain culturally relevant to the needs of the child or young person, and reflect the cultural diversity of Aboriginal communities.

The new provisions relating to the training centre will provide more robust legislative support for this important function. I note that it is standard protocol in national and international youth justice and administration agreements that there must be an independent monitoring mechanism in places of detention. Apparently the current practice here is for the Guardian for Children and Young People to act in this capacity via delegation, instruments and administrative agreement.

The functions of the new training centre visitor will be vitally important for the operational success of this legislation, for they will have the power the conduct visits and inspections of training centres, as well as inquire into and provide advice to the minister in relation to any systematic reform needed to improve the quality of care, treatment or control of the residents. I am pleased that the training centre visitor will be able to visit the youth training centre unannounced. Without this, the ultimate benefit of having a training centre visitor would be largely diminished.

Other provisions of the bill outline various conditions for residents whilst they are in a youth detention facility. These provisions include, for example:

the education requirements for a young person in detention;

prohibited treatments of residents;

the power to search residents;

the power to drug test residents; and

the use of sniffer dogs.

There are also a number of changes surrounding the process of transferring a young person from a youth detention facility to an adult prison.

I am particularly encouraged to see the inclusion of the education provisions in this bill so that courses of instruction or training will be made available to detained youth, and furthermore that they will be encouraged to further their education. On this point, we in the Liberal Party have a strong belief in the power of education. It is key for those in the youth justice system, enabling them to achieve future prosperity, rehabilitation and, ultimately, redemption. Too often offenders are unable to rebuild their lives once they are released from detention because they lack the necessary skills and training to obtain employment. Too often this traps youths in a vicious cycling of reoffending and reincarceration.

I am also pleased to see that the bill includes a principle and objective that a family inclusive practice approach should be applied wherever possible. Like education, this recognises that support from the family unit also plays an integral important role in the successful rehabilitation of an offender, and quite often is determinative of whether an offender will be able to successfully reintegrate back into the community.

I note that the chief executive will be required to report on the operation of this act and the work of the department each year. I look forward, through the provision of these reports, to observing how this bill will operate in practice when enacted and whether further attention of the parliament is required. I commend the bill to the chamber.

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