Western region remand reduction strategy: To reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal clients in custody

Mr Greg Edwards1, Mr Kelvin  Cook1

1Juvenile Justice NSW, Dubbo, Australia

In response to the high number of juveniles, predominantly aboriginal, detained on lengthy remand periods, the Western Region implemented a specialised team in 2012 to focus on reducing the number of juveniles waiting in custody for finalisation of court matters.  Prior to 2012 the highest number of remanded juveniles was 68.  In March 2019 there were 15 juveniles from Western Region held on remand.

The Bail Services Team (BST) concentrated on specific areas:

  • Management and staff initiated meetings with magistrates, Aboriginal Legal Services and community stakeholders to introduce the BST and their role
  • A monitoring system to track all juveniles in custody, allowing the BST to interview remanded juveniles prior to attending court
  • Attending court days and presenting relevant written/oral information to the courts, in turn allowing magistrates to make an informed decision, resulting in either successful bail applications or matters being finalised on the same day
  • Consistency of service delivery to the courts

Whilst this service was implemented over six years ago, consistent, creative and unique strategies have been tested over  time, resulting in Western Region having a 78% reduction of remandees as at 1 March 2019.  In addition, Western Region has only 11% of the total remandee population across the state, with the Far West rural and remote area having predominantly aboriginal communities.

The BST has afforded a decentralisation of monitoring, missed bail opportunities and unnecessary remands; an enhanced working relationship with the courts and stakeholders and most importantly, decreasing aboriginal youth in custody.


Biography:

Greg Edwards has worked in the Juvenile Justice portfolio for over 17 years, having commenced duties as a youth officer at the Orana Juvenile Justice Centre.  Greg progressed through the agency, holding positions of Transport Officer and Unit Co-ordinator within the detention centre; followed by roles in the community of Caseworker for Dubbo and Bourke, Assistant Manager of Bail Services Team and currently the Area Manager for Far West Area.  Greg’s area of responsibility encompasses rural and remote communities running from Broken Hill on the western border, Wentworth on the Southern border, Goodooga on the northern border and inland to Walgett and Nyngan.

Kelvin Cook worked as a team leader with a non-government organisation prior to joining Juvenile Justice.  He undertook the role of Caseworker, then transferred to the Bail Services Team at its inception.  Kelvin now manages the Bail Services Team located in Dubbo.

Australasian Youth Justice Conference

The Australasian Youth Justice Administrators (AYJA) hosts a bi-annual Australasian Youth Justice Conference (AYJC) for academics, practitioners, and government and non-government agencies to drive and showcase youth justice initiatives and innovations nationally and internationally.  Learnings from these conferences contribute to evidence-based responses for youth justice and provide new ideas for youth justice at both a jurisdictional, national and international level.  EMAIL: secretariat@ayja.org.au

AYJA is working in collaboration with Juvenile Justice New South Wales (JJ NSW) and the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) to deliver the third AYJC in 2019.

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