Communities and governments need to be smarter, not tougher, against youth crime, according to University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) senior lecturer and criminologist Dr Suzanne Reich.
Community outrage has reached boiling point following a spate of incidents in certain parts of the country.
A government’s response to cracking down on youth crime is consistently sweeping reforms and harsher penalties, but these measures often overlook or fail to adequately address the root causes of delinquent behaviour and crime.
Dr Reich said developing a holistic approach to youth crime problems at a community level was the key to stem the recent spike in the number of young people engaging in offending behaviour.
“We cannot solely rely on the government to provide the solutions to the problem of crime committed by young people,” she said.
“There are solutions to the problem of youth crime within our communities.
“These solutions can be formulated and then implemented by the community.
“The benefit of doing so is for the community; everybody wins.
“A community that does not care about its young people is a community that its young people do not care about.”
To respond to the growing youth crime crisis, UniSQ has organised the 3rd Vulnerable Persons Conference: Youth Justice at Toowoomba, starting May 11.
The conference will provide a platform for some of Australia’s top legal, policing and academic minds to explore the key issues.
Event co-organiser Dr Reich said the conference would allow for open conversation and discussion, with anyone interest in the topic welcome to attend.
“Working together has always been the goal of our Vulnerable Persons Conferences by sharing both knowledge and practice and encouraging integrated service delivery,” she said.
“Many local and national speakers will highlight different aspects and perspectives on this urgent issue.
“It’s like one giant jigsaw puzzle that requires all perspectives be put on the table for us to see the full picture.”
The conference will feature a diverse range of presentations from distinguished guests, criminal justice representatives, government stakeholders, legal practitioners, victims’ services and those with lived experience.
One of the notable speakers will be former Queensland Police Service Commissioner Bob Atkinson.
Mr Atkinson was previously appointed to review the youth justice system in 2018 and outlined 77 recommendations for reform that helped guide Queensland’s Youth Justice Strategy 2019-2023.
The strategy was based on the 'four pillars' underpinning Mr Atkinson’s recommendations. They included early intervention, keeping children out of court, keeping children out of custody and reducing reoffending.
One of the central concerns highlighted in the strategy was 10 per cent of young offenders committed 44 per cent of all crimes committed by young people and were among some of the most vulnerable groups.
“The current responses to youth crime primarily react to and punish the offending behaviour,” Dr Reich said.
“However, offending behaviour is generally a sign of a more significant issue in the person’s life, and yet for many these underlying issues seem to remain inadequately addressed.
“These issues might stem from homelessness, poverty, poor education, family breakdown, removal from communities, mental health/cognitive conditions and disorders, poor physical health, and long-term transience, to name a few.
“Young people thrive when they have stability, a place to feel safe, a community in which they find a sense of belonging, opportunities to achieve goals, positive role models and the chance to engage in activities that bring value to their lives.
“If this is missing, they will fulfil this need elsewhere, and for some, that will be by way of criminal activity in the company of others.”
More information and registration details for the 3rd Vulnerable Persons Conference: Youth Justice is available.
- What: 3rd Vulnerable Persons Conference: Youth Justice
- Where: University of Southern Queensland Toowoomba campus and online
- When: May 11 & 12
- Guest speakers: Bob Atkinson (former Queensland Police Service commissioner), Natalie Lewis (Commissioner, Queensland Family and Child Commission), Dr Mindy Sotiri (Executive Director, Justice Reform Initiative) and more.
- Contact: SSS-AcademicAffairs@usq.edu.au