ACYP conducted the first consultation with children and young people in detention in 2015 to inform the development of the first whole of government Strategic Plan for Children and Young People. This consultation was held in Orana JJC (Dubbo) and included open-ended questions about what was and was not working well for children and young people in NSW and what they thought the top priorities for NSW Government should be to improve the lives of all children and young people in NSW.
A more structured approach was adopted for all consultations conducted in subsequent JJCs. Specifically, between July 2017 and July 2019 the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People and ACYP staff made at least two visits to every JJC in NSW. Within NSW there are six JJCs. Three are based in regional NSW: Orana JJC (Dubbo), Riverina JJC (Wagga Wagga) and Acmena JJC (Grafton), which have a catchment area based on their location and surrounding regions. The other three centres are metropolitan based: Reiby JJC (Airds), Cobham JJC (Werrington) and Frank Baxter JJC (Kariong).
These consultations were focused specifically on the supports needed before and after detention, as well as while in custody:
- What services and supports do you think are helpful to young people before coming into custody and after they are released?
- What services and supports do you think are helpful to young people while they are in custody?
- Increased resourcing for whole-of-community programs, particularly in regional and Aboriginal communities, to help strengthen capacity to tackle systemic conditions such poverty, substance use, mental health difficulties, family violence, and intergenerational trauma to support children and young people and prevent them from entering the justice system.
- Greater investment in mental health and drug and alcohol support options for young people, particularly in regional areas, including intensive residential rehabilitation and inpatient programs, counselling, therapeutic groups, and health education and information provision.
- More life skills programs geared toward children and young people tackling complex challenges should be developed and delivered in schools and through community-based support programs to prepare children and young people for independent living and adulthood.
- Development of targeted employment support programs with expertise in working with young people tackling complex issues to assist them to transition into the workforce through opportunities to obtain work experience, apprentice and traineeships, certifications and training in life skills.
- Increase availability of intensive one on one casework support targeted towards children and young people identified as being at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system to assist them to successfully navigate the service system.