Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I would like to rise to briefly make a contribution on Ms Crozier’s motion. I do not know whether it is my personality or that I am in my first term, but this type of debate to me does not seem terribly constructive. I have certainly taken an interest in Parkville and taken an interest in juvenile justice, but continuing to try to blame people does not seem to help the kids in those juvenile justice centres.
This is a systemic problem. Certainly the pot is boiling over, and I can see that we certainly are having problems — the riots there and the fact that Parkville is unlivable — but I would say that she is just the last minister who was in the pot when the pot boiled over, and she has been scalded by it. The department has been asking for improvements to juvenile justice facilities for nearly a decade, and their requests have fallen on the deaf ears of the coalition government and the previous Labor government — this has been going on for years.
This is systemic, and it is not just under the current minister, who has certainly been at the helm as we have seen some unprecedented riots in these juvenile justice facilities. But Parkville is more than 20 years old. It has not been fit for purpose for years. It was not fit for purpose when the coalition was in government. I must say I found it the most depressing place to go to with its overgrown gardens and dank, broken furniture. In its school, Parkville College, which I think is an excellent example of a college that is trying to teach children with significant psychological and health issues — and a range of issues — the children are working in these grey, dingy classrooms with no facilities. If you wanted to say to a child ‘I couldn’t care less about you’, then pop them in Parkville, because that is what you are telling them.
I certainly believe that Parkville needs improvement. I think Parkville needed to be improved 10 or even 20 years ago. I have spoken to and listened to a number of the staff there and, yes, they are frightened because of the lack of staff. This is systemic. This has been a long-term process. This did not just happen in the last two years; this has been ongoing. The department and the community have been calling for change for at least a decade. We are seeing intergenerational issues. When I was at Parkville I met one of the kids there. When I spoke to the director he said, ‘You know, when I was a police officer I arrested that child’s grandfather. I then arrested that child’s father, and now that child is in my juvenile justice centre’. That is what is broken in our system. We need to tackle the issue of why these children are entering into this place.
This leads me to paragraph 4 — I am not even going to go into paragraphs 2 and 3 — which is about providing accurate and timely information. How about we provide some accurate and timely information in this house today? We are constantly hearing about this tsunami of youth crime — crisis after crisis — but the statistics just do not bear this out. Statistics from the Sentencing Advisory Council and the Crime Statistics Agency show that the number of children and young people sentenced has declined since 2008–09. The number of children sentenced in the Children’s Court has halved since 2008–09. Of Victoria’s 10 to 17-year-olds, less than 1 per cent are sentenced for criminal offences. This is not a tsunami. In fact Victoria has the lowest rate of young people aged 10 to 17 under supervision across all the states and territories. None of these statistics support the hyperbole that we have heard in here. What we know is that a very small cohort of all young offenders are responsible for a significant percentage of youth crime. In fact 1.6 percent of all young offenders are responsible for 25 per cent of the crimes.
I was speaking to police at the Jewellers Association of Australia forum down in Spencer Street the other week, and they said, ‘This is unprecedented. We’re seeing kids whose first offence is aggravated burglary. Their first offence is going into a jewellery shop with a baseball bat. They haven’t even been picked up for shoplifting prior to that’. So the police are scratching their heads as to how — —
Ms Crozier — Do you think that is acceptable?
Ms PATTEN — I do not think that is acceptable. But we are seeing a completely new system, and this is what the police are saying. When someone gets to aggravated burglary they have generally been in front of the police before that. The police know about them before they get to aggravated burglary. This is not generally the path to a crime such as that. There has generally been a trend up for that.
So what are we doing about these kids? How are we stopping them? How are we intervening? This is where I think we need to be looking. We need to be focusing on how we can identify these individuals. These children are not on the radar because they have not committed a crime before they commit these heinous and violent crimes. Calls for harsher punishment and supermax prisons are a shallow response. I do not think it is actually a very effective response, because it is not going to stop offending. We know we cannot jail our way out of systematic poverty, broken homes and mental health problems when we note that the vast majority of kids who go into juvenile justice centres have mental health issues and drug issues. They are generally victims — very much so — of sexual violence, family violence and a whole range of issues, yet we are trying to treat these kids as if somehow they are to blame.
There are significant problems in the juvenile justice system, but the blame does not lie with this particular minister; it lies with the fact that these problems have been systematically ignored. We have not systematically funded the system, we have not addressed the issues of multigenerational poverty and I do not support this motion. I am very pleased to be on the inquiry that Ms Crozier has established. I hope that that inquiry will mean we will hear not only from the experts — not only from the police, not only from the employees — but also from the kids. We are trying to get a system where we hear from the children as to what it is that is causing them to feel such disquiet within the juvenile justice system. How are we failing them? I do not think that this motion helps those children, and I do not support it.