CEO Message – Our Youth Justice Position Statement

While much of the work at CMY over the last few months has been concerned with supporting multicultural young people, their families and communities through the challenges of coming in and out of lockdowns, we have still been keeping busy with our core work.

One piece of work that is ongoing for us is the advocating of equitable justice for multicultural young people. CMY is committed to promoting young people’s rights and reducing their involvement in the justice system. For some years, there have been certain cohorts of multicultural children and young people overrepresented across the youth justice system, though we have seen an overall drop in numbers.

Earlier this month we released our Youth Justice Position Statement and briefing paper. As different migrant and refugee communities have settled in Australia there have been spikes of their engagement with the justice system, which is largely the consequence of a range of complex personal, social and systemic risk factors coupled with the failure of settlement support and responses that adequately address their needs. Responses to youth crime have often neglected issues of structural inequality and its symptoms, such as poverty, disadvantage and racism that adversely affect the lives of marginalised multicultural young people.  However, we all have a collective responsibility to ensure every child and young person feels safe and included in our community, with access to the opportunities and resources to succeed.

Our Youth Justice Statement identifies a way forward. We are asking for a bold and new approach to the issue, with concerted effort to forge real collaboration for better outcomes. Our call for action is reinforced by the Government’s 2017 review into Victoria’s Youth Justice System and the recommendation to work with CMY on this issue. We need a co-ordinated response that involves Government, CMY, relevant affected communities, young people with lived experience of the youth justice system, and service providers with knowledge and experience.

To coincide with the release of our Youth Justice paper, CMY hosted a webinar as a first step in starting this conversation and looking at solutions. I’d like to thank those who attended and engaged in the discussion, and for the insights of the panellists, which included: His Honour Judge Michael Bourke, former Chair of the Youth Parole Board; Sylvia Coombe, President of the Fijian Community Association Victoria; Kot Monoah, a principal lawyer at Sunshine Lawyers and former chairperson of South Sudanese Community Association in Victoria; and Martha Metuisela who leads our CMY’s Le Mana Pasifika Project in the western suburbs. I’d also like to especially thank the three courageous young people who joined the panel to share their stories of lived experiences of engagement with the Victorian youth justice system. As with all the young people with similar stories, their perspective and insights was an invaluable addition to this conversation, and necessary in paving the way forward.

The persistent overrepresentation of some young people in youth justice is a crisis warranting urgent attention. We call on the Victorian Government to urgently support bold reform to attend to the needs of young multicultural Victorians at risk of, and engaged in our justice system.

You can read CMY’s Youth Justice Position Statement and Briefing paper here: