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The youth justice system manages children and young people who have committed, or allegedly committed, an offence. In Australia, youth justice is the responsibility of the states and territories, and each has its own legislation, policies and practices. However, the general processes by which young people are charged and sentenced, and the types of legal orders available to the courts, are similar.

In Australia, young people can be charged with a criminal offence if they are aged 10 or older. The upper age limit for treatment as a young person under the law is 17 in all states and territories except Queensland, where the limit is 16. However, some young people aged 18 or older are also involved in the youth justice system (see ‘Technical notes’).

A young person first enters the youth justice system when they are investigated by police for allegedly committing a crime. Legal action taken by police might include court actions (the laying of charges to be answered in court) and non-court actions (such as cautions, conferencing, or infringement notices). If the matter proceeds to court and the charge is proven, the court may hand down any of a number of orders, either supervised or unsupervised.

This report looks at the complete youth justice supervision history of 24,102 young people in Australia, who experienced supervision, both in the community and in detention, between 1 July 2000 and 30 June 2014 when they were aged 10–17. More than one-third (37%) of young people experienced the most common pathway of sentenced community-based supervision only.

Young people spent a median of 303 days (about 10 months) under supervision in total, and completed a median of 2 periods of supervision. About 11% of young people had a pathway that was considered ‘extensive’, and these young people accounted for about one-third (32%) of the total days of supervision and nearly half (45%) of all supervision periods.

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