07th March 2024 05:47pm
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (17:46): (771)

My adjournment matter is to the Minister for Police, and it concerns funding for the youth crime prevention and early intervention project. Last week I had the great privilege to meet the amazing team at the youth crime prevention and early intervention project. This project is making a difference, keeping children and young people in the inner west from that initial contact with the criminal justice system, which we know can lead to a lifetime of adverse outcomes.

It does so by using police cautions and diversions for minor offences and linking those young people with a youth services coordinator to assist them to access the supports they need to stay on the right side of the law.

The project was founded by Angus Woodward from Westjustice and Steve Turner, a Victoria Police sergeant working the beat in Melbourne’s inner west.

They were both frustrated by the traditional approach to youth crime, which criminalised too many children and young people while failing to address the factors that might influence these young people to commit crimes in the first place. Most of their clients are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, including young members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and African–Australian, Māori and Pasifika communities as well as children in residential care.

The multidisciplinary team operates out of the Visy Cares Hub in Sunshine. Having legal assistance and youth services operating out of one site is critical, so that kids can get timely support rather than being referred to somewhere else to meet with support services in a couple of months time.

The project has led to a drop in the number of arrests and court appearances and has reduced rates of recidivism.

Evaluations of the project have been overwhelmingly positive, and it enjoys strong support from key stakeholders including Victoria Police, who, frankly, love it. Funding for the project runs out in May, so the team are seeking money to continue operating out of the current site as well as funds to expand the project to four more sites across the state.

This will be money well spent. The reduction in court costs and use of police resources alone more than covers the cost of funding the project. I would like to thank Angus Woodward, Sergeant Steve Turner, Chantelle Gianinotti and Ellie Serour for their time. This is the sort of good news story we need in the western suburbs, and I urge the minister to support this fantastic project.

[Answer Pending]

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