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Youth Justice – Additional Support for Young People

2 Guiding principles for supporting a young person in youth justice

For young people in youth justice, engagement in education is the most important protective factor. Every Victorian young person must be afforded the right to education, which includes being supported to overcome barriers to engagement.

Schools/settings and educators can support a young person in youth justice to change their trajectory and facilitate lasting change in their life by applying the following principles.

Building positive relationships and trust between educators and young people

Relationships with educators who demonstrate empathy, warmth, encouragement and genuine care are central to building a young person’s positive self-image and to building trust. They are particularly critical for young people in youth justice, many of whom have experienced trauma and fractured relationships with educators and their own parents or carers. Learning mentors can lead and promote the establishment of these relationships in a school setting.

Understanding a young person’s strengths and needs

Taking time to understand a young person and their strengths and needs, is key to building positive outcomes for all learners. This is particularly critical for young people in youth justice, many of who have had complex histories of trauma and have complex risk factors and barriers to engagement. Learning mentors are key to building this understanding and helping to translate this within the Student Support Group.

Supporting young people to plan for a bright future

Self-determination is key. When young people are supported and empowered to set their own longer-term educational goals, they are in the best position to achieve them. For young people in youth justice, many of whom have experienced education disadvantage and disruption, future planning is best nurtured through ongoing conversations and strong relationships and documented within an Individual Education Plan.

Engaging with families, carers and communities

Families, carers and communities play a fundamental role in empowering young people to reach their potential. Thoughtful and purposeful engagement with the families and carers of young people in youth justice is critical to redressing the systemic disadvantage faced by many young people and their families in youth justice.

Drawing on the strengths of our rich and diverse communities is key ensuring that schools/settings are culturally inclusive and safe spaces for the high proportion of young people in youth justice who are Aboriginal1 or from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds.

Relentlessly following-up and 'never giving up'

As a result of systemic disadvantage, histories of trauma and complex barriers to engagement in education faced by many young people in youth justice, positive engagement with learning, educators and peers may be challenging.

A young person’s ongoing engagement in education, can hinge on educators maintaining a positive regard for a young person, and 'never giving up' despite setbacks and challenges. Professional learning is available to support educators.

To ensure that no young person in youth justice falls between the gaps, Regional teams work in close partnership with schools, settings and youth justice. Guaranteed support is provided by working together and doing the following.

Being accountable for every young person

  • Young people in youth justice can be highly transient, with many experiencing insecure living arrangements and those in custody must make the difficult transition to and from their custodial setting.
  • Schools are accountable for young people who are enrolled, even when they are in custody. Schools have a critical responsibility to act and escalate for further support if a young person is at risk of disengaging. The actions for schools and settings have been designed to support schools to fulfil their accountability.
  • Accountability for young people who are unenrolled is triggered through a state-wide tracking and monitoring process. This process enables Regional teams to prioritise support for disengaged young people in youth justice.

Sharing information and planning

Mobilising supports for young people in youth justice with complex barriers to engagement in education often requires shared planning. This may include:

  • engaging with Care Team meetings (convened by Youth Justice or Child Protection case managers)
  • escalating to area teams and regions who operate a range of forums and panels designed to coordinate support for complex cases.
  • escalating further to Multi Agency Panels, combining expertise from schools, community organisations, police and government departments.

1 Throughout this document the term Aboriginal is used to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Guidance chapter outlining guiding principles for supporting a young person in youth justice

Reviewed 22 February 2023

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