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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2009 ..

therapy youth justice so we could trial this family-centred response for young people coming into contact with the youth justice system as part of the work to support raising the age.

We have also been investing in our safe and connected youth program to ensure young people disengaging from school and their families get a comprehensive response that works with families to address conflict, works with young people to understand why they are disengaging and works to keep them safe with their family wherever possible or find alternatives where that is not possible. Those are just two examples of the work we do.

As minister with responsibility for youth justice for four years, it is always distressing when you get the data and see that a young person under the age of 14 is in Bimberi. Very often you understand the circumstances of these young people because there are only a small number of them. Sometimes they come in on remand, they go and you never hear about them again; sometimes they come in again and again. It is incredibly distressing when you realise that they are perpetrating problematic behaviours in order to get into Bimberi because it is the place they feel safest. That is one of the problems of engagement with the justice system.

Even if children are never convicted of an offence, once they are in on remand and start getting into that cycle, the risk is that that escalates. If that option is not available, if it is a requirement that we have to put something else in place, we break that cycle of engagement with the justice system, and we have the opportunity to do that. And I want to be clear that we can.

We have seen young people come through in this incredibly difficult situation who have been engaging in sometimes quite violent behaviours, and we have been able to put supports in place to address the underlying trauma, to work with those young people and to get them on a trajectory for a better life. It is absolutely possible that we can do this and it is absolutely the right thing to do. It is also really important that we engage in a conversation with the community to address all of the complexities that Minister Rattenbury has talked about.

The Attorney-General has been clear that we are not talking about a system without consequences for young people aged 10 to 13 who engage in problematic behaviour; we are talking about a system that has the right kinds of consequences—that victims receive support and that young people not only see a consequence for their action but also receive the therapeutic interventions and supports needed to change the trajectory of their lives.

I encourage anyone with an interest in this to read the discussion paper, to think about the complexities of the issues and to have their say on this really important issue. I look forward to hearing the community’s feedback and I look forward to us taking the next steps to raising the age. I acknowledge all of the people in the Community Services Directorate, across our justice system and in our community sector who work with some of the most complex young people in our community and try to deliver these better outcomes every day.

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