Thursday 15 November
Hansard of the
PRACTICES - YOUTH JUSTICE REFORMS
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President,
somewhere in our legislative pipeline is the Youth Justice (Miscellaneous
Amendments) Bill. This is a timely attempt to address one of Tasmania's worst social problems: the
disengagement of young people, particularly young males, from our society and
the consequential increased likelihood of them offending and of repeat
offending. Put simply, the proposed youth justice legislation gives more weight
to the rehabilitation of a young offender with community-based orders likely to
become more common and, as a result, fewer young offenders are likely to end up
in the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
Mrs Taylor - Can you make a point of saying that
it is not all youth, please?
Mr FINCH - No, I am
focusing on youth this morning.
Mrs Taylor - But not all youth are in that
Mr FINCH - That is my
focus with this speech and my time is running out.
Community service orders will be able to be carried out at
any organisation rather than just those that are non-profit, providing
potential skills for employment. Judges will be given more discretion in
sentencing and will be required to consider the impact a sentence will have on
a young person's chance of finding and keeping employment. It seems to me that
this proposed legislation goes a long way to addressing the serious problem of
young people breaking the law. I look forward to studying it in more detail.
This problem of disengagement; a lack of skills, joblessness
and offending starts much earlier - particularly with boys - in the school
system and it is there that it must be addressed. Schools need to be aware of
alienation at its very beginning. There needs to be continuous follow-up. Some
young people are bound to offend when still in secondary school and afterwards.
Everything must be done to divert them from ending up in Risdon Prison.
The proposed new youth justice legislation will help. It
will include a system known as restorative practices, which is already in
is a leader in the use of restorative practices in youth justice and schools.
Restorative practices are used in a range of contexts around the world with
teachers, police and social workers trained to apply the concept. An advocate
of the initiative, Ivan Webb, a former principal of the Riverside Primary School
in my electorate, says restorative practices need to be supported and extended.
He says we should seriously consider Tasmania
becoming the first restorative state in Australia.
How do restorative practices work? As Ivan Webb explains,
traditional responses for an offender include enforced punishment and
exclusion, or the behaviour is excused on the basis of an offender's previous
history. Alternative restorative practices that apply strong social discipline
are possible. The offender is challenged to do the right thing and is also
provided with ongoing support. Resolving situations involves the offender,
victims and those who care about them - family and friends. Offenders are held
responsible for their actions. They are required to repair the harm done if
possible, and to learn from what has happened. However, punishment and
exclusion may still apply.
As Mr Webb explains it, many people in our community who do
harmful things are already isolated, alienated or damaged by abuse or neglect.
Traditional punishment and exclusion simply adds to the likelihood of them
doing further harm. This alienation was reportedly one of the factors behind the
deaths of three young people in a tragic car crash last week. All three
teenagers had been in state care. Their deaths led to calls for more campaigns
to warn young people about the dangers of drink-driving, speeding and high-risk
behaviour. Major Brendan Nottle of the Salvation Army in Melbourne says such campaigns would fall on
deaf ears among a group of young children who feel disconnected from the
community. Major Nottle's thoughts fit well with the sentiment behind the new
youth justice initiative and restorative practices. I believe we are finally
about to make progress in tackling one of our biggest social problems.