We spoke to Holly Mulligan and coordinators from the Children’s Court Youth Diversion programme about their diversion programme in Victoria, Australia.
Tell us about your scheme?
Children’s Court Youth Diversion (CCYD) is a dedicated service within Youth Justice which commenced in January 2017 and provides a pre-plea option for young people appearing before the criminal division of the Children’s Court of Victoria.
The young people are assigned CCYD coordinators, who provide a structured, evidence-based approach to case coordination and provide targeted interventions which reflect the young person’s offending, circumstances and developmental stage. These can include offence specific interventions, structured restorative justice activities and substance abuse treatment amongst others.
The CCYD programme supports young people to:
- accept responsibility for their behaviour
- undertake a brief intervention to reduce their risk of further offending as part of a diversion plan
- upon successful completion of the diversion plan, have their charge/s dismissed and restrict the release of criminal history information for the relevant offences.
CCYD coordinators attend all sittings of the Children’s Court of Victoria to undertake assessments of young people, develop diversion plans and provide recommendations to the court about a young person’s suitability for diversion. As of the 31 December 2019, CCYD coordinators had overseen 4,545 diversions with a 94% success rate.
What have been the highlights of working in the CCYD?
Highlights of working in the CCYD programme include having the opportunity to engage young people who are at an early stage of contact with the criminal justice system, and to provide an early intervention response.
This is reflected in the CCYD’s strong focus of diverting young person away from stigmatising contact with the criminal justice system, whilst working to address their risk of further offending. CCYD achieves this by referring young people to voluntarily accessible community services to address offending risk, rather than offence-specific programmes accessible to the broader Youth Justice cohort. CCYD is also an outreach-based service, ensuring that young people do not attend appointments at the Department of Justice and Community Safety buildings. This prevents young people from being introduced to others who have a history of criminal offending and from having further contact with Youth Justice. CCYD outreach vehicles are de-identified using visibly differentiated number plates from those often associated with government vehicles in the community. These measures contribute to the decrease and prevention of internalised and actual stigma via contact with the criminal justice system.
The CCYD programme is quite flexible and responsive to each young person, identifying instances where funding was provided for young people to access cognitive assessments through CCYD. This enables young people to have greater access to educational supports including school aides and access to disability support, resulting in increased engagement and success in education.
What have been the challenges of working on the CCYD?
Coordinators noted that the brief nature of CCY interventions (which are a maximum of 4 – 6 months) can sometimes present challenges when young people require more long-term oversight to support their continued progress with pro-social and diversionary interventions. In these instances, coordinators will often refer to community-based services, or work to strengthen existing support to ensure that young people have continued access to support following the completion of their diversion programme.
Please give an example of your reflections and learning from working with young people on the programme.
The CCYD’s flexibility and tailoring of diversion plans to each individual young person allows coordinators to identify young people’s skills, strengths and needs to make plans for meaningful interventions. Coordinators note the importance of trying to understand each young person’s strengths and trying to include these as part of the diversion intervention where possible. Coordinators have found that if young people can input into the development of the diversion plan, this results in better outcomes and more long-standing interventions.
An example of this is when a young person was arrested and charged with graffiti offences that received media attention in 2018. The young person was assessed as suitable for diversion by CCYD and participated in the Department of Justice and Community Safety funded street art programme as part of his diversion plan. This activity gave the young person an opportunity to demonstrate his skills and interest in art in a pro-social context. The young person displayed talent and skill throughout the programme and was identified as a leader and positive influence for other young people by the programme facilitators. The young person reflected with his CCYD coordinator that he had learnt a lot about artistic technique through the programme and that street art can be performed positively and legally. As a result of the young person’s participation in the programme, his school art teacher asked him to complete several murals around his school. These paintings positively influenced the young person’s engagement in education and re-connection with his school. The young person successfully completed his diversion activities and returned to court without having reoffended. The young person’s charges were dismissed by the local Children’s Court.
You can find out more about the Children’s Court Youth Diversion and the support they offer here.
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The picture above is of piece of art work by a young person in the CCYD programme.