ACWA has been undertaking joint work with the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) to raise awareness about the Joint Protocol to reduce the contact of young people in residential out of home care with the criminal justice system, and to promote its effective and consistent implementation.
In addition to our role in co-chairing the steering committee for driving the ongoing implementation of the Joint Protocol, ACWA has participated in the first two of a series of regional roadshows planned for the coming year, along with AbSec, ITC providers, DCJ, local police commands, PCYC representatives, Legal Aid and other partners. The October forum was held in Newcastle and the December forum in Western Sydney – the birthplace of the joint service provider and police collaborative work which prompted the Joint Protocol’s development.
These roadshows, or forums, bring together local practitioners to showcase innovative practices aimed at reducing unnecessary contact by young people in care with the criminal justice system, and strategies to influence positive behaviour. A focus activity during each forum is a workshop between service providers and police operating within each police area command so they get to know each other and build a positive relationship, and develop a local action plan for implementing the Joint Protocol. The progress made in implementing these action plans will be tracked via the Joint Protocol steering committee, which helps ensure that the forums have an operational, as well as educative, purpose.
At the Newcastle forum, we were pleased to have participation from Magistrate Ellen Skinner from the Broadmeadow Children’s Court, who was able to highlight the value of the regular interagency meeting she holds at the court with local government organisations, police and service providers to promote a coordinated response to meeting the needs of young people coming before the court. Magistrate Skinner also put a spotlight on an initiative funded by Allambi Care, which involves a youth case manager attending court every Monday to speak to young people about their needs and make appropriate referrals. The results are proving promising, with several young people who had previously had frequent contact with police not appearing before the court for 12 months.
These regional roadshows will continue into 2020, and are one of a number of important joint initiatives underway between ACWA, AbSec, DCJ and the wider sector aimed at improving outcomes for young people at risk of coming into contact with the law.
ACWA’s involvement in the Joint Protocol initiative forms part of broader work that we are seeking to undertake to promote local, whole of system responses to vulnerable young people in general.
The case study below well illustrates the value of the Joint Protocol:
15-year-old David* got himself into trouble for stealing a work vehicle from the residential home where he was living.
The teenager had come forward and disclosed his actions after staff at the facility noticed signs that the car had been driven without permission. Being under 16, David was unlicensed to drive. To further exacerbate the incident, he admitted he had two other teenage passengers with him at the time, and that he had driven the vehicle under the influence of marijuana.
While thankfully no personal injury or property damage came to bear as a result of the escapade, David and his two young friends had nevertheless placed themselves, and potentially others, at significant risk. Due to the serious nature of the incident, it was decided that a shared response under the Joint Protocol was warranted.
Minimising David’s contact with the criminal justice system was the ultimate goal, as staff and police worked together to resolve the matter. David’s history in out-of-home care, together with his earlier experiences of trauma and neglect, were also taken into account as contributing factors to his substance use and antisocial behaviours.
In the end, Police responded by issuing David with a caution (normally a young person would be referred for a Youth Justice Conference for an incident of this kind).
David, who was expecting a far more severe punishment, was surprised and relieved.
Thanks to the positive relationships fostered under the Joint Protocol, he was given a chance to learn from his mistakes. More importantly, he now understands that has the support and understanding of people who care and want the best for him – and that he is worthy of a second chance.
We extend our thanks to Life Without Barriers for sharing with us details of this successful Joint Protocol outcome.
* Name has been changed to protect privacy