: Legislation best way to ensure equal access 
to youth diversion programs

Legislation best way to ensure equal access 
to youth diversion programs

Tiffany Overall
Victoria

The weight of evidence suggests that diversion at early stages of the criminal justice process can be a highly effective means of discouraging further criminal activity by children and young people. Diversion helps them get on with their lives, not be shadowed by past criminal behaviour and a criminal record, and be linked up with support services like counselling, drug treatment and family mediation.

The current diversion options available to children and young people in Victoria are inadequate, ad hoc, often inaccessible and operate without any legislative basis. This is unlike in the adult criminal justice system in Victoria, which offers a legislated diversion program for mainly first time offenders charged with minor offences, under section 59 of Criminal Procedure Act.

In August 2012 the Victorian government released its discussion paper and called for submissions responding to ‘Practical Lessons, Fair Consequences: Improving diversion for young people in Victoria’, Smart Justice for Young People and Youthlaw both put forward responses calling for: the introduction of a statewide legislative framework to ensure consistent and equitable access to diversion options (pre-court and at court) for children and young people, and dedicated funding by government of graduated, tailored & culturally appropriate diversion options.

The submission period closed in October 2012. The money spent on diversion now has the potential to generate huge savings for government and the community in the future. It is imperative that the government seizes on this opportunity to truly embed diversion in Victoria’s youth justice system.

TIFFANY OVERALL is Advocacy and Human Rights Officer, Youthlaw.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 291
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to youth diversion programs

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