6. Ensuring that learning environments are positive, culturally safe and inclusive, and free from stigma
Young people in youth justice face complex barriers to engagement in education. These barriers are often a complex interplay between personal trauma and inter-generational and systemic disadvantage. Ensuring that learning environments are positive, culturally safe and inclusive and free from stigma is key to supporting young people to overcome these barriers.
6.1 Addressing stigma associated with being in youth justice
Young people in youth justice can face stigma associated with being charged with an offence and/or being held in custody. This stigma can detrimentally impact on a young person’s relationships with peers and educators and with their own sense of self-worth.
Care should be taken to avoid labelling a young person as an offender. Static labels are detrimental to supporting a young person to build a positive sense of self.
Displaying empathy and taking time to understand a young person and focusing on their strengths and needs is critical. A young person and/or their parents/carers may choose not to discuss details of any offences or court outcomes, and they should not be pressed to share this information.
6.2 Addressing racism and creating culturally safe and inclusive learning environments
Given the significant proportion of young people in youth justice who are Aboriginal1 or who are from culturally and racially diverse communities, ensuring schools are culturally safe and inclusive and free from racism is critical to supporting young people’s engagement.
Resources are available to support schools in standing up to racism, including:
6.3 Creating trauma sensitive learning environments
Key elements of implementing a trauma informed approach within a school or setting, is building the capability of all staff at the school to:
- provide predictable and calm environments and foster strong relationships
- apply a non-judgemental lens to behaviours, and take a child centred approach to understanding the behaviour
- consider that some behaviours maybe triggered by trauma and the activation of the neurological fight, flight, freeze systems, and attempt to reduce actions that may re- traumatise a student
- support students to be able to identify, understand and better regulate their emotions.
1 Throughout this document the term Aboriginal is used to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Reviewed 22 February 2023