Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I am pleased to rise to speak in relation to Ms Crozier’s motion. I promise I will try to keep it brief so we can get through this. I appreciate that Ms Crozier has been asking many questions about this issue over the past few weeks and the past few months, and I commend the work that she did in the last Parliament on child abuse within organisations. Like Ms Springle, Ms Crozier and previous speakers, I too have an interest in youth justice. I have a family member who is a forensic psychologist who worked at Don Dale and in many of the hard juvenile justice centres in New South Wales. I have spoken to her many times about her experiences.
Reading Ms Crozier’s motion, I would support her — and I believe Ms Springle touched on this as well — in saying that we are not seeing transparency in what is going on. We are not getting the answers, and I do think that an inquiry will hopefully provide information and shed some light on that. However, I am not convinced that we are seeing a tsunami of crime amongst youth or that we are seeing out-of-control, gang-ridden and gang-led sprees and riots within our juvenile justice system. I am not convinced of that; however, that will certainly play out with this inquiry. It is for that reason and my interest in the area that I do support Ms Springle’s amendments to this reference motion.
It is a reference to a committee of which both Ms Springle and I are members, so I think we will bring our passion on this issue to this inquiry. I hope this will be a very positive inquiry and will complement the work that is being done by the commissioner for children and young people and by the department itself in looking at a framework around juvenile justice.
But let us remember that we are actually seeing a decline in the number of young offenders. We are not seeing more and more offenders; we are seeing a decline in that number. I recognise that in fact our young offenders are getting older, if you can say that, so we are seeing an older young offender who is being charged with more severe crimes when they first enter into our criminal justice system. Their reoffending is also of a severe nature. We need to understand why this is happening. I agree that it is important to look at the recent incidents at Parkville and Malmsbury, but we need to understand why that behaviour is occurring. We have to look at the factors that underpin youth offending. If we are going to look at what is happening in juvenile justice centres and if we are concerned about what has been happening there, I do not think that the Herald Sun is necessarily the go-to document for this information.
When I have spoken to the CEO at Parkville and to other people within juvenile justice, the information they give me is something very different. When I visited Parkville we were not told that Apex-led gangs were running there. In fact most of the people there were trying to say that they were from Apex because they thought it was a cool thing to do. I think one of the calls from Parkville in particular was, ‘Please stop talking about Apex’, so I will stop.
On looking at these people and arguing that we need supermax prisons and we need to throw away the key on these people, we need to look at who we are locking up. As Ms Springle touched on, the Youth Parole Board’s annual report gives us some clear information about who these young offenders are: 62 per cent of the youth detainees come from child protection orders — 62 per cent are victims of abuse, trauma and neglect; 58 per cent of them have not been able to stay in school; 33.3 per cent, one-third of them, have mental health issues; many of them are also registered with disability services; and most of them were offending while they were under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of drugs or both. This is a very damaged cohort of our young people, and we need to understand that more to look at how we can stop them offending in the first place.
I must say that I was amazed to see that the current policy framework around juvenile justice has not been looked at for 16 years — 16 years and we have not looked at the juvenile justice framework. We know that the Aboriginal community is completely over-represented in that area. We have had deaths in custody reports, and we have had a whole range of other reports that look at how our Koori community is so negatively impacted by our justice system. In Victoria that is no different.
I support the amendments to take this to a much broader inquiry. While I am very pleased to see that the government is finally addressing a framework that has not been touched on or looked at for 16 years, I agree that a parliamentary inquiry will enable us to look at a broader range of things and probably create greater transparency and, I would hope, a level of independence that is hard to operate within the public service and the public sector.
When you look at the parole board that deals with all of these people, you see that they are saying the same things that we are saying. They are saying that we need to address alcohol and drug services for young people, we need to address violence prevention programs and we need to look at young people and family violence. We need to look at all of the reasons why people are in Parkville and Malmsbury — young children.
When I was out there, I met with the CEO. He commented that he had been a police officer before, and he commented that in the case of some of the children in Parkville he had arrested their parents as a police officer. In fact he had arrested their grandparents as a police officer. We need to be breaking these cycles, and we need to be looking at how we can do that. I hope that this reference will go some way to looking at this, will go some way to stopping the recidivism rate and will go some way to looking at why 40 per cent of the kids in Parkville are there on remand. They have not even been prosecuted yet; they are there on remand.
Decreasing youth recidivism has benefits to the community in terms of safety and cohesion, but it also has cost-saving implications. It is very expensive to look after a child within the juvenile justice system. It is a very expensive model, and it is a model that, by and large, when you look at all the reports, actually does not work. In fact by putting a juvenile into the criminal justice system you are ensuring that their chances of ending up in the adult justice system are far greater. I do not know the numbers, but I would say you would probably triple their chances of ending up as an adult offender by putting them into a juvenile justice centre. Simply toughening sentences for young offenders will not achieve the results we want.
I support this motion. I commend Ms Crozier for the work she is doing on trying to provide greater transparency in what is actually happening, and I support Ms Springle on the broadening out of this inquiry.