Constituency Question- Youth Justice
Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:49:30): (1041) My constituency question is to the Minister for Youth Justice, and I ask: what is the Andrews Labor government doing to support our youth justice workers? Recently I was approached by a constituent whose son works in a youth justice centre, and he highlighted to me the importance of supporting our workers in this tough but essential role. Shift after shift, our youth justice workers dedicate their time to this very complex role in our society. Their work has many aspects, from being a custodian, to mentor, to educator, to youth worker and more. Their work is not without hazard, is sometimes stressful but can also be rewarding. These dedicated people are worthy of our respect, and I thank them for the work they do.
Our youth justice staff work with complex young people in a very challenging environment. They are dedicated, capable and committed to turning around the lives of the most complex young people in our society. Violent behaviour and assaults by young people in custody is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We are committed to supporting our staff and providing them with a safe working environment that maximises opportunities for rehabilitation for the young people in our care.
To date, our Government has invested over $1.2 billion to overhaul the Youth Justice system, delivering more and better trained and equipped staff, as well as addressing the recommendations of the Armytage Ogloff Youth Justice Review. As recommended in the Youth Justice Review, the department has commenced work on a workforce plan, which will include strategies addressing recruitment, retention, occupational health and safety (OHS), and learning and development. The recent 2019-2020 Budget provides $20.1 million to maintain safety and security in our custodial centres including Safety and Emergency Response Team (SERT) staff, Security and Emergency Services Group (SESG) staff, senior operational staff and staff on the units.
New laws were introduced under the Children and Justice Legislation Amendment (Youth Justice Reform) Bill 2017 that impose tougher consequences for young people who assault staff or commit other crimes while in custody. The statutory minimum sentences that apply in respect of serious assaults on prison officers and emergency workers have been extended to serious assaults on youth justice custodial workers. As a result, minimum sentences apply to people aged 18 and over who are sentenced for serious assaults on youth justice custodial workers while they are on duty in a youth justice facility. For assaults committed by children under 18, sentences of detention imposed for those assaults are served cumulatively on any other sentence of detention, as the statutory minimums do not apply to children.
New youth justice custodial staff undertake approximately seven weeks of pre-service training that includes sessions on OHS, communication methods with young people, tactical response training, mindfulness, and wellbeing. The program includes increased use of scenario based learning and on-the-job placements. Once staff have completed their pre-service induction, they participate in ongoing mandatary training to ensure their skills are up to date.
To support staff wellbeing, Youth Justice has a dedicated health and wellbeing team and program. The program includes wellbeing and psychological health, managing stress, mental health support, individual counselling and crisis support, conflict management and restorative justice conferences. New staff members have access to a mentor to assist in their transition to the workplace, and all custodial staff have access to a peer support program as a primary intervention for psychological support. In addition, an onsite psychologist is available for staff who seek individual psychological support.
Significant work is still underway to strengthen the workforce and improve safety for staff and young people. A Custodial Facilities Working Group has been established since April 2019 and comprises senior government and non-government youth justice experts and stakeholders. The focus of the Working Group is the safety, security and stability of youth justice custodial facilities as well as the effective rehabilitation of young people in custody.
Ensuring the safety and support to our staff is of utmost importance to this Government, and we will continue our commitment to build a strong and stable youth justice system.
The Hon Ben Carroll MP
Minister for Crime Prevention
Minister for Corrections
Minister for Youth Justice
Minister for Victim Support