The number of Australians who were homeless on census night increased by 17% to 105,237 in the five years to August 2011. When adjusted for population growth, the increase the increase is still worryingly high, at around 8%. It’s clear we need a stronger commitment to address this significant social issue.
The Victorian Department of Justice recently released a discussion paper calling for community input into the design and implementation of diversion programs for young people engaged in the criminal justice system.
Unlike many jurisdictions in Australia, Victoria has not adopted a legislative, court-based diversion scheme for addressing crime committed by children and young people. The state has also seen limited investment in diversionary programs and an overreliance on discretionary police cautions. For young people in rural and regional areas, access to diversion programs and support services is especially limited.
There is currently no state government funding mechanism to support and sustain community crime prevention in Victoria. Given the available evidence shows that preventing youth volence and crime is a good investment, I call on the Victorian state government to set up funding mechanisms to support community crime prevention.
Recent reports have raised concern at rising rates of youth violence in Australia. Research recently completed by my team as part of the large cross-national International Youth Development Study (N=4,000) clarifies rates and determining influences for youth violence. For males in Victoria aged 14-15 in 2003 18% reported at least one episode of violence in the previous year (defined as attacking or beating another). These rates were significantly higher relative to a matched sample from Washington State in the USA (13%). The study revealed many of the influencing factors to be preventable.