This paper examines the numbers and characteristics of Indigenous young people in the juvenile justice system, the types of supervision they experience, recent trends, and associated research findings.
Indigenous young people are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, particularly in the most serious processes
Although only about 5% of young Australians are Indigenous, in 2010-11, almost 2 in 5 (39%) of those under juvenile justice supervision on an average day were Indigenous. There were 2,820 Indigenous young people under supervision in Australia on an average day and 5,195 under supervision at some time during the year.
Indigenous young people aged 10-17 were 4-6 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be proceeded against by police during 2010-11 and 8-11 times as likely to be proven guilty in the Children's Court (among the states and territories with available data). At a national level, they were, on average, 14 times as likely to be under community-based supervision during the year and 18 times as likely to be in detention.
They are more likely to experience supervision when aged 10-17
Among the cohorts of young people for whom a complete juvenile justice supervision history is available (those born between 1990-91 and 1992-93), 14-16% of Indigenous young people experienced supervision at some time when they were aged 10-17, compared with just over 1% of non-Indigenous young people born in each year.
They enter the juvenile justice system at younger ages
Indigenous young people aged 10-17 who were proceeded against by police (in the states and territories with available data) were more likely than non-Indigenous young people to be in the youngest age groups (age 10-12). In addition, the majority (58%) of Indigenous young people under supervision in 2010-11 had first entered supervision when they were aged 10-14, compared with less than one-third (32%) of non-Indigenous young people (excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory, as standard data were not provided).
They complete shorter periods of supervision, but spend more time under supervision overall
In 2010-11, Indigenous young people tended to complete slightly shorter periods of supervision than non-Indigenous young people (median duration 62 days compared with 68; excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory as standard data were not provided). However, they completed more periods during the year, on average, and spent just over 3 weeks longer (200 days compared with 178) under supervision during the year.
However, their over-representation in supervision has decreased
In the 5 years to 2010-11, there was a slight drop in the level of Indigenous over-representation in supervision, as shown by the rate ratio. Indigenous young people were 15 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be under supervision on an average day in 2010-11, down from 16 times as likely in 2006-07. The largest decrease in over-representation was in detention, where the rate ratio dropped from 28 to 24 over the period.