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Canberra
Thursday, April 22, 2021

Few young offenders complete community-based orders

The ACT has Australia’s lowest proportion of young offenders successfully completing community-based orders (CBOs), Liberal MLA Elizabeth Kikkert claimed in an Estimates hearing this morning.

“I am determined to see these young people receive the hands-on case management and strong community support they need to successfully reintegrate into the community,” Mrs Kikkert, Shadow Minister for Families, Youth and Community Services, said.

Community-based orders enable convicted young offenders to remain in the community, so they can rehabilitate while continuing to attend school or work. A CBO is not successfully completed when a court decides that an order was breached.

According to the Report of Government Services (ROGS) 2021 only 49 of the 107 Canberrans sentenced to CBOs successfully completed them – or 45.8%. But in 2015–16, 68.5% of ACT residents (61 out of 89) completed CBOs, and in 2016–17, 70.5% (79 out of 112). The 2019–20 figure is only half Victoria’s proportion (91.9%), well behind Queensland (84.9%) and NSW (84.4%), or even the second-lowest state, Western Australia (69.2%).

“Why is the government going backwards on this material whilst the rest of Australia is improving?” Mrs Kikkert said.

The decline is even steeper for Indigenous Canberrans, Mrs Kikkert argued: from 81.8% in 2015–16 to 15.9% in 2019–20.

Forty-four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans were sentenced to CBOs, but only seven completed their sentence. By contrast, 22 Indigenous people were sentenced to CBOs in 2015–16; all but four successfully completed their sentence. The current ACT figure is only a quarter of the second-worst, WA’s 63.5%.

“What happened in 2019–20 to result in five out of six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people failing to successfully complete their community-based orders?” Mrs Kikkert said.

“This is another example of the government failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.”

Emma Davidson, Minister for Justice Health, said the very low individual numbers could distort the percentages.

“We have to use a little bit of caution, and read those numbers carefully.”

ROGS data could also differ from ACT data, depending on the measure used.

Helen Pappas (Children, Youth and Families) took the question on notice.

Ms Pappas said the number of children on CBOs had decreased since the Blueprint for Youth Justice was implemented in 2012.

At one point, there were more young people placed on CBOs in the ACT than elsewhere in Australia: 6.07 per 1,000 people in 2009–10, compared to a national average of 4.49. At that time, an Indigenous young person aged 10–17 was 11 times more likely to be under community-based supervision and 22 times more likely to be in detention than a non-Indigenous person.

Those not completing their CBOs were on a spectrum of more complicated, recidivist behaviour, attracting new orders over the year, Ms Pappas said. They might reoffend; they might be put on other CBOs; or they might be placed in the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre.

Mrs Kikkert, however, said the government had not provided any explanation, and that she was troubled that Ms Davidson and officials were unaware of the data, having to take the question on notice.

“Governments are expected to provide comprehensive case management and connect kids to the right community supports, but how can they do this well if they don’t even realise how badly they’re failing?” she said.

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