Transcript: Sentencing Seminar Series - What happened with Jake?

Professor Elena Marchetti, Acting Chair, Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council and Master of Ceremonies

We're really pleased that you could make it here tonight. It's quite an important event for the Council and I think for all Queenslanders. We've got our friends from Griffith University and the Griffith Criminology Institute to thank for supporting us in pulling this all together. Also, I should say hello to not only those of you who are here in this room tonight, but those of you who are joining us via the live webcam. There's a camera on and it's being filmed.

My name is Elena Marchetti, and I'm the Acting Chair of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, and I'm also a professor of law at Griffith University. This evening, I'm also in charge of the proceedings, and also the narrator of Jake's story. With me tonight are some of my Council members and Secretariat colleagues, and if I can just ask you if you're in the room to put your hands up. I won't introduce everyone, but I just want to say a particular thanks to the Secretariat for pulling this all together. They've done a terrific job, I think. Before we start, I'd like to first of all acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet tonight, and pay my respects to elders, past and present and emerging, and also welcome any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here with us this evening. It's important to recognise that this land has been and always will be under their custodianship.

Tonight, we're here to examine a group that is receiving considerable media attention at the moment; young offenders. Now, they are our neighbours, our children, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren, our friends. They're the next generation. Young offenders are increasingly under the public spotlight. Most of the news stories are focused on juvenile crime, and the perceived frequency with which young offenders seem to re-offend. But with recent revelations about the treatment of some young people in detention centres, many members of the community as well as politicians and policy-makers are wondering if detention is actually the right response. This is why we're all here tonight, to answer that question. Is our current model the right response for young Queensland offenders?

To help us answer that question tonight, we have with us a number of distinguished guests in the room, and we've got a great cross-section of Queensland's criminal justice system experts, victim and offender advocacy groups, and the general community with us here tonight. Also, we've got this good-looking group of panel members over here to my left. They're very respected and influential experts, including our young experts. And we're all keen to hear from all of the people here tonight, and I'll introduce you to them in a moment. But I've got a few housekeeping things to go through before I start. First of all, I hope you all know where the restrooms are. If you don't, the men's and women's washrooms, are just outside this door and to your left, just down there. If you are a smoker, I'm afraid you can't smoke here, you have to go out onto the street. So you'll need to head back downstairs and leave the building.

If there's an emergency, we'll have the Ship Inn’s Fire Warden come up and they'll escort us out in the safest way possible, so please just follow the directions that are given. Also, can you please just check now that your phone is either switched off or put on silent. Of course, if you need to step out, please just do so respectfully. We've got a large group of people who are joining us via live web stream tonight and the seminar is also being recorded for future use. But it's important to point out that our young people are not being filmed. You will be able to hear them, but that's important to protect their identity and anonymity. We've also set up our hashtag for this event. If you're a social media user, and want to post or tweet about this seminar during or after or whenever you feel like it, please use the hashtag #QSACyouth. So in capitals QSAC and then youth.

Right, so now I can turn to introducing you to  one side of our panel of experts, and then I'll make mention of our other young experts way over to the left. So, here closest to me is Professor Paul Mazerolle. Paul is the Pro Vice Chancellor at Griffith University of Arts Education and Law. He's got an extensive and impressive research career in criminology at Griffith University, including as the director of the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance.

Next, we have Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O'Shea. Deputy Chief Magistrate O'Shea was first appointed in 2001 as a Magistrate and, in July 2012, was appointed as the Magistrate of the Childrens Court in Brisbane. In July 2014 she was appointed the Deputy Chief and played a lead role in establishing the Specialist High Risk Youth Court in Townsville, which commenced sitting in February this year. She’s currently Acting Chief Magistrate of court, so welcome.

Dr Jim Watterston is the Director-General of the Department of Education and Training, and he has more than 30 years' experience as an educator, a school principal, an academic and now, at the helm of the Department, he is responsible for delivering education and training throughout Queensland. So thank you.

Next, we have Ms Cheryl Leavy. She is the Deputy Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission and has extensive experience and expertise engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations. Cheryl is a Kooma Traditional Owner and her country is in southern inland Queensland between Cunnamulla and St George. So, thank you.

Next, we have Dr Stephen Stathis. He is a medical director at the Child and Youth Mental Health Service at the Children's Health Queensland. He completed a dual fellowship in paediatrics and psychiatry and has practised as a full-time consultant, child and adolescent psychiatrist in Brisbane since 2012, so welcome.

And finally, but certainly not least, Detective Superintendent Cheryl Scanlon. She is the operations commander for the Child Safety and Sexual Crime Group at the Queensland Police Service. Cheryl's role covers the whole state of Queensland. Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, David Mackie, who is the Director-General of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General sends his apologies. He was unable to make it tonight. But we're lucky enough to have a couple of people from the Youth Justice Branch in the front row. We've got Mark Lynch here and Sean Harvey. So we might call on your expertise during the night's events as well.

Finally, I'd like to introduce you to our version of what we’ve called a Greek Chorus. It's a group of people, a group of I'd say experts, they're over here to my left, those who are watching this through the live web broadcast won’t be able to see them. Historically the Greek Chorus was a group of performers who were not individually named, but who commented on the dramatic action as a collective voice. So, for our purposes tonight we wanted to make sure young people were here to provide us with their take on these issues, without naming them as individuals or asking them to give any of their own personal information. Some of the young people have had experiences in the juvenile justice system or have been in the out-of-home care system, and some have not. But we don't want them to identify whether this is the case or not.

We welcome you tonight and invite you to provide commentary on what our speakers are saying, whether from your own personal viewpoint or just the viewpoint of other young people that you know. So, thank you very, very much for coming.

I just want to mention to all of you that when I hand over to you, you've got three minutes. No more than three minutes to talk and that's for the sake of getting through the evening. Anne, over here, who is the Director of the Secretariat, has a big bell and she'll be ringing it if you go over that time. Just bear that in mind when you're talking and I'm really talking to these guys.

Tonight, I want to take you on a journey to explore the life of a young man who we've called Jake. He's our fictitious young person who ends up finding himself involved in the criminal justice system and the out-of-home care system at a very young age. Now, I and all of us here probably know that he doesn't represent all young people. For the young people in the audience today, I don't want to stereotype young people or stereotype young offenders at all. Like any group of people young offenders are obviously going to be a very diverse bunch of people. Not all young people who land in court had it tough growing up, but we do know that a substantial proportion of young people in the Youth Justice System have had contact with the Child Protection System. We also know that a lot of young people involved in the Youth Justice System present with a range of associated pressures across different points in their lives, and often these can and do influence when, how, and why they come to the attention of our formal Justice System.

The other thing to remember is that only a very small number of people come to our attention as young offenders. So, in the 2015-16 financial year, courts data showed that about – it was actually 3001, but say 3000 young people aged 10-16 had a proven offence which is actually less than one per cent of the entire population of young people in Queensland that year. Soon, of course, 17-year olds will be included in that cohort as of February in this state, so the figures might change a little bit there. Young people are also only a tiny proportion of all sentenced offenders, and you can see that from this graph. So in fact less than five per cent - and it's pretty consistent across the years – they make up less than five per cent. As I said it's been pretty stable over the last 11 years.

The majority of these young offenders do not end up in detention. In fact, the 2014-15 Annual Report of the Children's Court of Queensland showed that only 8% of young offenders received any kind of custodial penalty, with a majority receiving a community service order and that was 19%, probation, which was 18% or a good behaviour bond, which was also 18%. What we do know is the majority of young offenders are male, and I'll just flick to the next graph, although the proportion of young women has increased over the most recent years as you can see. And there is a much higher over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young offenders of sentenced offenders in Queensland, than there is of the adult offending population. You'll see that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, young offenders is about 37-47% across time, as opposed to the proportion of adult offending population, which is about 14-16%.

Empirical research has identified that young people involved in the Child Protection System are more likely than the general population to be under youth justice supervision. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare identified that in 2014-15, 41% of children in detention had also been involved in the Child Protection System. This means that children in detention were 19 times more likely than the general population to be in the Child Protection System, which is a terrible statistic to be reading out.

Let's get to Jake. If we think about Jake, let's meet him for the first time at six weeks old. Jake's dad is Aboriginal and he lives in Cairns. His mum instead is from a Scottish-Irish background. Neither of Jake's parents finished school. Jake's father Aidan is 19 and works part-time for the local meat works and his mother Sheree is also... Well, she's 18 and she works as an apprentice hairdresser.

We find that they didn't actually mean to get pregnant. They ended up starting to date and Sheree gets pregnant after a few months of meeting each other. Sheree's mum isn't too happy about the fact that Sheree got pregnant and so she throws her out of home. So Sheree moves in with Aidan and he lives in an all-male household, share house. You can imagine what that was like, I don't want to, in terms of the cleanliness. The share house is fairly chaotic as you can imagine. There's a lot of drinking going on. In fact, Sheree continues drinking quite heavily through her pregnancy. She had started drinking when she, you know, was thrown out of home.

When Jake is born she leaves her apprenticeship and mostly spends a lot of time at home, often drinking. There's a lot of strain on the relationship, as you can imagine, and between Aidan and Sheree. Jake becomes a very unsettled baby. He seems to have chronic colic and also cries a lot of the time. He's often left for long periods of time distressed and alone in his cot because neither mum nor dad can cope with Jake. Some quite violent arguments develop between Aidan and Sheree. Particularly, this happens after they've been drinking. They have so many arguments and they end up quite violent that the neighbours end up calling the police on a number of occasions and Aidan has been arrested for violence against Sheree.

So that's the story and that's the picture and at this point I just want to turn to our panel. Stephen, I might begin with you. What are some of the implications for Sheree, Aidan and Jake that jump out at you at this stage?

Dr Stephen Stathis, Medical Director, Child and Youth Mental Health Service, Children's Health Queensland

First of all, I just want to briefly mention about the Greek Chorus and us here. Knowledge doesn't equal wisdom. I think one of the best ways of gaining wisdom is through a lived experience so don't just listen to what we've got to say, listen to the Greek Chorus.

Having a look at this very briefly, there was a fellow called Donald Winnicott. He was a very famous paediatrician, psychoanalyst. He basically said ‘there is no such thing as a child. There's a child and a person.’ In this situation, I'd like to say who is this someone else, who is that someone else in this child's life? Essentially, we've got two teenagers who are having a baby. There's nothing wrong with that, but when you look at history, there's not ante- or post-natal care, which is a real concern to me. There's good evidence to show that post-natal follow up of children significantly reduces the risk of conduct disorder and youth justice issues in adolescence and Paul might talk about that.

We've got an unplanned pregnancy, chaotic, unstable environment. I did live in a male share-house, it's not a place to bring up a child. We've got significant alcohol use, which I’ll touch on. We've got poor family support. We've got a chaotic situation. We've got chronic colic and medical conditions and I'm really concerned that this baby's going to be medicalised from a really early age. I don't think that's a good outcome. And finally, which is really concerning for me, we've got a six-week old baby who's already being neglected. Now one minute on attachment theory - you have all heard of attachment theory? Many of us have.

Attachment theory really discusses or explains how human relationships early on in a life impact your development later on, your resilience, because infants are social beings and they need to be connected with people. And we know that infants who are neglected are severely stressed and have difficulties attaching not just with their caregiver but with other significant people early on, and later on in their lives.

We also know that the stress of a child being neglected affects their brain. Essentially, you get small brains. To give you basically what the science is, by the age of three months, a little baby is developing 40,000 synapses, that's connections within the brain, every second. So in the hour and a half that we're going to sit here, if you've got a three-month old grandchild at home, they've developed over 200 million synapses, connections, within the brain in one and a half hours. Two hundred million. In fact, by the age of six there's more synapses in your brain than there are stars in the known galaxy. Neglect stops brains forming correct synapses. I'll talk about that later on. That has significant implications later on. That's attachment in 90 seconds.

The other concern I have as a whole, as a doctor, is the issue about alcohol use. Many of us are acutely aware of the significant scourge of alcohol use particularly with our indigenous brothers and sisters. Particularly out West, and in Western Australia, you've heard of foetal alcohol syndrome, FAS, or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD. Notwithstanding the real concerns I have about the indigenous population, the most common cause or population that FASD affects is white single women, because the brain's development is most acutely sensitive to alcohol in the first four or six to eight weeks of development, often when you don't even know you're pregnant. A single binge in that critical time, even when a lady doesn't know they're pregnant, can affect the child. Notwithstanding alcohol use right throughout the pregnancy, which can cause small babies and concerns about development later on.

So those are my major concerns. I have lots more but in three minutes, major concerns as a doctor.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thanks Stephen and I might turn to Paul now, and you mentioned Paul might have some things to say. So with those medical insights Paul, as a criminologist, what would your comments be and what can you tell us about what the research might say?

Professor Paul Mazerolle, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Arts, Education and Law, Griffith University

Sure.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Can you hold it? I think it's on now.

Professor Paul Mazerolle

Think it's on? Okay. Thanks Elena, and thanks colleagues. What a great opportunity to talk about a young person and his future and the kinds of challenges that he'll face, in his family and his community. I just want to concur, bringing the health considerations to the youth development considerations. And obviously this is a family under enormous stress and chaos. What Stephen has said in terms of the impact on development has lots of implications for not only preparedness for school, but opportunities for anti-social conduct and subsequently, delinquency.

So, we're really talking about a young baby who's exposed to a great deal of risk, familiar risks. We actually know that these kinds of situations really lend themselves to the need for early intervention, wraparound services, nurse home visitations, family support, parenting support, respite, et cetera. So unfortunately, Jake is born at-risk in a situation that is, absent intervention, is going to be problematic for his development. So, there's an opportunity to try to reset that, and I think that's where services need to be brought to bear so that his development can be redirected such that he has preparedness for school, that his possibly low birth weight is addressed, that his possibility for foetal alcohol syndrome is counteracted, because we know some of the implications for foetal alcohol syndrome have implications for the juvenile criminal justice system. It affects conditionability and if your conditionability is delayed, you don't associate consequences to misbehaviour and anti-social behaviour. So that has major implications for deterrence.

In terms of criminological interpretation, Jake is on what's called a kind of an early-onset pathway or potentially a life course persistent pathway, which is not to suggest that it's deterministic, but it's highly a probabilistic relationship that he has lots of early risks and absent intervention could well fail at school and be marginalised from conventional peers, exhibit early anti-social conduct disorder and inner social personality and would be highly at risk of early onset delinquency. We know just to quickly quote some statistics that my colleague, Mark Lynch, led a study 15 years ago which was probably one of the best studies looking at youth trajectories in Queensland. It was called the Youth Trajectory Study published by the CMC [Crime and Misconduct Commission]. In a cohort of juvenile justice offenders from '94-95, followed up to September 2002, 79% of those people on supervised orders ended up in the adult system. But if you're male and indigenous, it was 89%. If you were under a care and protection order, it was 91%. So, the point is, is that serious involvement in the Juvenile Justice System is highly predictive of a persistent, serious, offending career in the adult system. So the opportunity to intervene in the early years are crucial. So why don’t I stop there.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thanks Paul. Now Paul, you mentioned the service system and I'm going to hand over to Cheryl Leavy here. How might the members of Jake's family come to the attention Cheryl, of the service system at this point?  What could or should have been done to help Jake's parents?

Cheryl Leavy, Deputy Commissioner, Queensland Family and Child Commission

There are many ways that families and children can come to the attention. What I’d like to focus on is early intervention for Sheree and her family. Early intervention with vulnerable families is really one of the most important stop-gaps if you like. Protecting children does start with the family, but it also involves the community and professionals that wrap around that family. Protecting children really is everyone's business. With support, most families can care for and protect their children without the involvement of the government and without the involvement of Child Safety Services. This story seems really almost like it's on a helpless trajectory, doesn't it?  Like we can't stop this freight train. What I want to talk about is how important it is to de-stigmatise needing help, reaching out for help and offering help, because we all can do something.

You can encourage families to contact a service directly themselves or you can help link them up with services. And how are we going to find out about those services? Well, encourage them to visit the Talking Families website, the One Place Community Services directory, which is online. You can let families know that they can themselves contact Family and Child Connect on 13FAMILY, that's a telephone number, to help them to talk about and work through the challenges of parenthood that most of us face at some point or the other. Those of us who manage to work our way through, without needing formal help from a service provider, are those that have strong family networks and helpers around us. Those of us who are able to chat with a girlfriend over a cup of coffee or while we're walking up Mt Coot-tha or something like that, about what we're facing. That helps us to cope better. It's part of our coping mechanism.

Those of us who don't cope so well often aren't doing those things. And de-stigmatising reaching out for help is a really important part of that. Another thing that we could all do that I'd like to give a plug for is QFCC's [Queensland Family and Child Commission] Protecting Children Online Learning Module. It's a really great way for all of us to practise what it looks like to have difficult conversations with people, because it's almost part of the Australian psyche, isn't it, the way that we are as a people, is to not really want to get involved when people are struggling and to kind of mind our own business. But like I said, protecting children really is everyone's business and there's a way to go about having those difficult conversations, and you can learn how on the Protecting Children Online Learning Module.

I just wanted to turn quickly to the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, if I may. The most important point that I'd like to make here is that it's important to understand that disadvantage or Aboriginality is not a predictor of abuse or neglect, and we all need to be free of bias for all vulnerable families when we're working with vulnerable families. And a great way of ensuring that we do this is making sure that First Australian communities and organisations and community-controlled organisations are able to get involved, and their cultural knowledge is used to make sure we have more effective, responsive and culturally-appropriate and safe responses for these families, for First Australian families.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Great. Thanks Cheryl. You know growing up in an Italian family my business was everybody else's business. Yeah, there was a lot of that going on. So, if we move on to Jake at seven years old now, so we're going to jump forward quite a few years. As Aristotle said, ‘show me the boy at seven, and I will show you the man’. So, what is Jake's life looking like at this point?  Well, we find that Sheree and Aidan are no longer together. Aidan left when Jake was two after further violence occurred between them. When Jake was four years old, Sheree re-partnered and Jake's stepfather was physically and emotionally abusive of Jake. Sheree and her new partner were both heavy drinkers and Jake was often left on his own or was left to be taken care of by people who were conveniently there, but not necessarily the most suitable people to be taking care of him.

A year ago, when Jake was six he arrived at school with bruises on his arms and a black eye. Jake's teacher tried to find out what happened to Jake, but Jake wouldn't say much. What he did say was enough to indicate that he'd been physically assaulted at home. So, as required under the Child Protection Act, Jake's teacher made a report to Child Safety and there was an investigation. The allegation was substantiated during that investigation and because this actually isn't the first interaction that Child Safety has had with Jake and his family, Jake was removed from home and placed in temporary foster care. So, 12 months later, Jake is still in care, but he's had three placements by now, with different families for different reasons. He's in year two at school but he's often in trouble, and he's falling behind academically, which is something that Paul had mentioned might happen.

He has a few anger management issues and is quite physical, including becoming involved in fights with some of the other boys and because of that, he actually spends a lot of time in behaviour management. So, Deputy Chief Magistrate O'Shea, can I ask you at this point for your perspective? How does this life course sound in terms of the kinds of children you see in the Children's Court?

Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O’Shea, Brisbane Childrens Court

Jake, unfortunately, is quite common, as a child who's subject to even temporary custody orders in Child Protection. He wouldn't have entered the Youth Justice system because he is only seven. Our age of criminal responsibility is 10. I know there are people working on having that lifted. Jake is showing probably some of the signs that Dr Stathis has been talking to us about, that of being left to cry in his cot. Those issues that Dr Stathis spoke about seem to have sort of a negative impact on his development. Acting out as a young boy in school is a fairly typical start to life for a child who's exhibiting these issues. The Department finds it hard to source any carers, but carers who can cope with a child who has behavioural issues and who can cope adequately with it is a very hard thing for the Department to locate. We need a lot of extra parents, or people who haven't got children, to identify and be willing to take these kids on, especially educated people who have some idea of the difficulties that the young children will have gone through when they experience very early life.

I find a lot of children are referred to the Department of Child Safety to the Court for a temporary custody order which is often the first order that happens for children. It's a three-day order, but it's just what gets the application started. And it's as a result of children showing bruises, or signs of neglect, or injury, even more serious injuries than this, being left alone for an unnaturally long time. I mean you can't keep a child, once he's seven, in his cot, as you can when they're little. So, they're now out, acting out. So, the children who come before our Child Protection System are the children whose parents struggle with drug and alcohol and domestic violence issues, and the children then find themselves neglected because the parents don't have the ability to care for them. And, unfortunately, as a result, children like Jake, unless there's some very involved wrap-around set of circumstances put in for a child like Jake, which really, the state, or the public, can't provide, because nobody can provide for a system that's working with him all the time.

He needs a lot of love and a lot of tolerance of his behaviour at that stage, but with very positive, purposeful activity. Structure, routine, and nourishment are going to help him to gain the best possible outcome he can have. I hear about cases like this in every affidavit I read in the child protection world. These are just typical things and they make up affidavit after affidavit. We just have children in that situation. Now, I have a little bit of a warped view because I deal with it day in, day out, only children. But I know it's important for those children that we actually put some more money and expenses into it.

Professor Elena Marchetti

So, let's shine the spotlight on his schooling and the Department of Education and Training now. So, Dr Jim Watterston, can I ask you, what could be done for Jake at school? Is there a typical approach that a school would take in relation to someone in Jake's situation? Is there something we should be doing to respond to Jake in the school setting?

Dr Jim Watterston, Director-General, Department of Education and Training

Sure, thank you. Hopefully, there's a lot that has been done for Jake or done with Jake prior to him arriving at school, but I suspect by the case history that might not be the case. Our Department also deals with early childhood provision, so there would have been a number of opportunities to at least interact with him along the way. Certainly, as you mentioned in the case history, he was in the Cairns area, so there's the Cairns Children and Family Centre, so there might have been some involvement in that. Children and Family Centre also hooks up with other government services through health and communities and a range of others.

Now, the trajectory you describe hasn't been successful, but for a school to be able to make adjustments and impact, they need to collect as much information about Jake as they can. And so, by the time he arrives at school, hopefully at Prep. Oh, is this not working?

Professor Elena Marchetti

No, or you may not have it close enough to your mouth. It should be on.

Dr Jim Watterston

Maybe I was turning it off. I seem to do that to a lot of people. No, just joking. So where was I before? For the school to be successful, and as we all know, early intervention is imperative for everyone. The earlier you can work with a young person, hopefully in the early childhood area, but certainly by the time Jake gets to school, we need to have done a number of assessments. A cognitive assessment, obviously, a functional behaviour assessment, and certainly look for the opportunities to deal with the situation about the Out of Home Care. And so from our Department's point of view, we've really reviewed and renewed our strategies around Out of Home Care. A number of those students, surprisingly four years ago, when we went through this, weren’t known to Principals. That they were in Out of Home Care. And certainly, with as I said a minute ago, so we've reviewed that practice. So each Out of Home Care student has a review on a regular basis and they have an individual education plan based on the fact that they are Out of Home Care.

So, it's fundamental that we treat Jake as Jake, that there is no set programs, there's no indigenous programmes. That mythology around the fact that you can take a group of people and lay across the top set plays, if you like, just doesn't work. And so, from our point of view, from the Department's point of view, we're very much focused on the case management of Jake. Understanding what the triggers were, if there are behavioural concerns, and certainly lack of progress, to hopefully have practises like trauma-informed practice. Understand what the trauma is, what is it that Jake's been through, and make sure that teachers understand that. And so, it then becomes a whole school issue to work with Jake, and not just the classroom teachers. There needs to be communication right across the school with regular updates from everyone involved as to the progress, or not, that Jake is making, but also interventions and adjustments that have been created through the assessments to make sure they’re consistently applied.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you. Cheryl, I'm curious to hear what you have to say in response to that, but before I turn to you, Stephen, are there alarm bells at this point that ringing for you, in terms of Jake? Is the microphone on, or maybe Jimmy can pass…

Dr Stephen Stathis

I’ll just use this one. Yes, there's a lot of alarm bells, and there's a lot of predictability here, though not certainty. Child maltreatment is being called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much in the way that smoking causes long-term physical problems, we know that early neglect has long-term mental health problems for this population. So, I see this as a walking neuro developmental time bomb, to be honest. We've seen in the history, he's got neglect, he suffered physical abuse, he misses school, he's got no consistent primary caregiver, he's falling behind academically, he's got lots of symptoms of chronic trauma.

He definitely would have what I would call a disorganised attachment paradigm. In fact, 80% of this population that we see in the Youth Justice System have insecure or disorganised attachment, which really means that they have chaotic emotional responses. And the difficulty with chaotic emotional responses is they're labelled, and I hate labelling, they're labelled as anything but attachment. They've got schizophrenia, or bipolar, or all these other terms, when in fact the core issue is chronic trauma.

There was a very interesting study called the Bucharest Early Interventional Project that looked at these types of young people. These children were put in stable foster placements, and were followed up. And they found that stable foster placements actually significantly improved a whole range of mental health outcomes. Brain activity, attachment, language, and cognition - great outcomes. The issue is, they had to be put in a stable placement by the age of two years. After two years, there was very little change, which is not to say that there was no change in some young people, but we’ve got two years, and already we're seeing the significant mental health issues that come with chronic trauma or perhaps FASD, or depression, or whatever it might be. There's a saying where two or three child psychiatrists gather, there the diagnosis differs, yeah?

But, when you distil it down, you've got difficulties with, I've just listed them here: difficulties with group social interactions, hyperactivity, poor attention, a lack of appropriate social boundaries, learning difficulties, poor coordination likely, problems with language, problems with problem solving, probably problems with short-term memory, and so all those issues are related to poor attachment, chaotic relationships, the difficulty trusting adult figures, the chronic trauma, perhaps the alcohol. So you've got this great amorphous mix, and it all bleeds into each other, and the end result is a highly vulnerable child.

Professor Elena Marchetti

If you could pass the mic to Cheryl Leavy.  Cheryl Scanlon, I am getting to you eventually. I haven't forgotten about you. But Cheryl, if you could just focus on the cultural identity of Jake, and his Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. I’d be curious to hear…

Deputy Commissioner Cheryl Leavy

Yeah. Look, let me start with some general statistics. So, from March, figures from March 2017 show that there were 8,800 children living in Out of Home Care in Queensland. This includes children living with foster or kinship carers, and in residential care services. There are more than 3,700 First Australian children living away from home. First Australian children continue, as we all know, to experience significant disadvantage across the board, so those figures are really no surprise.

They are 8.5 times more likely to be placed in Out of Home Care than non-indigenous children, 8.5 times. 43% of these children are not placed with kin or another First Australian carer, and in much the same way, sorry, as Dr Stathis has mentioned just now, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers really do make a difference. And the reasons for over-representation, or what others call disproportionate representation are varied and complex, and this might not be the answer you expect, but it is strongly connected to past policies and a legacy of colonisation and cultural assimilation which just hasn't worked.

Intergenerational trauma, discrimination, and forced removal are playing out in the figures that we see today. There are also significant cultural differences between what Child Protection Agencies and service providers see as the best way of doing things, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's understandings of family structures and best child rearing practises. First Australians had a very complex kinship system, social and justice systems that delivered that culture strong and intact, through an ice age, as the strongest surviving culture on earth until colonisation struck. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as we know, are now experiencing poverty, ill health, violence, and financial and housing stress, and all of those things also play into the child protection over-representation and the criminal justice over-representation. And that all means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids and families don't have the same opportunities as other children and families, put simply.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you, Cheryl. Now, I want to turn to our other experts, and that's the Greek Chorus.  Do any of you have anything to say about Jake at the age of seven? Maybe based on what you've seen your friends experience, or what you might say in response to what some of these people have been saying. You might completely disagree.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

I feel for the kid growing up, I sort of relate to the situation he’s gone through. Me, personally when I was growing up, I was around violence, domestic violence, alcohol, and drugs, and I sort of fear for the kid. Maybe support would have helped him a lot. For me, I wanted to be around, not around domestic violence and drugs and alcohol, obviously, but the one that was using it was my mother, and I just wanted to be around her if anything, even though there was support in people around me that trying to look out for me.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Is there anything that any of you might suggest in terms of schooling, the fact that he's in Year 2? Anything that could have happened?

Male youth, Greek Chorus

Maybe a mentor, somebody looking out for him constantly. Doing it by yourself, especially in the classroom full of other kids that have had the privilege of not knowing and understanding what he's going through, someone who could understand that and be around him constantly and looking out for him could have changed a lot.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you. Anyone else want to…?  Don't worry, I'll be coming back to you. So, we'll move on to Jake at 10. Another great photo. He's unfortunately become a bit of a handful. He's got difficulty controlling his anger, and he's started stealing money from his foster parents, as well as sneaking alcohol from them. In fact, because of that, he's been through three more sets of foster parents. He's struggling at school with literacy and numeracy, and has a reputation for being a difficult child.

Teachers don't want him in their classrooms, he's not popular with his peers or their parents, and this is touching on what our young expert just said before, he's very isolated. He starts wagging school, which is not surprising. And one day, while truanting, he's caught at the local shopping centre, trying to steal a pair of expensive running shoes, and the police are called. Now, Cheryl Scanlon, finally over to you. So we've got a first interaction with police at ten years old. What are the options open to police in this situation?

Cheryl Scanlon, Detective Superintendent, Operations Commander, Child Safety and Sexual Crime Group, Queensland Police Service

Okay. First of all, when I came into policing more than 30 years ago, I won't tell you how much more than 30 years, there was no legislation that covered youth justice. So, it was pretty primitive, I guess, compared to what we have now. So this little fellow is only 10, it's already been touched on, but the law provides that a child under the age of 10 years is not criminally responsible, and we do see children younger than that, but we go through a counselling process rather than any sort of official caution to try and put kids back on track. Queensland's had a cautioning system for some years, and I'll get to that in a moment. But this little boy has just turned 10, so he's only very young in the system. In addition to that, the law says that a person who is under the age of 14 years is not criminally responsible unless they at the time, knew that the act was wrong, and so with young children at the age of 10, it's one of the things in that age gap, between 10 and 14, that we have to explore when we're investigating something like this.

And given this little boy's history, and given that there's been various challenges in his life and how he's been parented, this child may or may not have a good grasp of what's right and wrong. So that's one of the things the police actually have to establish throughout looking at this. So, the Youth Justice Act, or what was once the Juvenile Justice Act, give police a range of options to work with young people, and that includes taking no action. So should we get to a point where this young fellow is not in a position to articulate the difference between right and wrong and struggling with those concepts, it may be that we don't take any action. The second option that we've got is to administer a caution. As I said, cautioning has been around for quite a long time now, and it’s a process that, for the police, has been a very effective system for us. We even in the last, 15-16 financial year, administered 4,000 cautions to young people in Queensland. And many of those children we never see again enter the system and so it's one of the processes we have available to us.

Beyond that is a restorative justice process, and there are other options in this group these days, but what people would know as a youth justice conference is another option. And beyond that is commencing a proceeding and taking a child into the court. Now, given the age of this little boy, usually the first option would be to try and establish first of all whether he knows the difference between right and wrong, and then if he does, the likely option in this case is a caution. Having said that, there is a criteria for administering a caution to a child, and that includes that the child must admit the offence, and they have to agree to being cautioned. Now, sometimes there are challenges for the police. And this has been my experience of many, many years of working within North Queensland, is that sometimes it's quite challenging when legal advice is given to children not to be interviewed at all. Because in the absence of a child admitting the offence, we can't exercise a caution or conference, which can be quite a difficult challenge.

This child is young, we would be aiming to deal with it in the least intrusive way possible, but again from the outset is to try and divert this child. And that will be as we roll through this scenario, is when we see a child of 10 years and such tender years who has the history, the child protection history coming to police, we are already seeing a child that is going to be quite challenged in terms of how he can be cared for and managed in the community, regardless of whether it's his own parents or somebody else trying to undertake that task.

Elena Marchetti

Thank you. It's difficult, isn't it, because there's the human rights, the rights of the child as a human being to have legal representation and be able to action the right to stay silent. But then that impacts on the ability of police to issue a caution. So that's certainly something to look at, I think. Jim, just quickly, what would you say about the truancy issue at this point? Is there anything…?

Dr Jim Watterston

So, the truancy issue is an indicator, I think, of a more dire future for Jake going forward. The thing about schools is that they can be the difference for all people, all young people, regardless of their challenges or circumstances. They can bridge the sort of hypothetical divide there is between the haves and the have nots. At 10 years of age for Jake, in a perfect world with best practice at a school, somebody needs to coordinate all of the other agencies, all of the other providers working with Jake. And that does need to be the school in that sense to make sure that there's not people poking their nose into Jake every five minutes, different people alienating him even further. I could list all the resources we could provide. The only point I want to make is it's about trust, and it's about making sure that inside the fence of a school is far more enjoyable then outside. And that doesn't mean just drilling and killing him and making sure that he pulls his grades up or whatever.

After all that we've heard about Jake, it is about finding somebody that he can trust, and all of us know one teacher that looked after us at some point during our life. And so, Jake needs that person right now more than ever, and if the school doesn't provide it, chances are based on his case history up to now, that it's going to be very difficult for him to get past 10 and to be able to find that person. So that's the role of the school now, to let Jake know that he has got a friend, someone who cares about him, and to be able to coordinate the work that's going on around him.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you. Paul, as a criminologist, would you say that actually happens? You know, based on your research with that background?

Professor Paul Mazerolle

I think it happens all too rarely, and I think Jim has painted a picture that is ideal and something we should be challenged by in terms of how do we redouble our efforts, because for me, and to reinforce what Jim has said, it's really how do we reach Jake? How do we find out what makes him tick? How do we understand how he can develop some role models, some protective factors? Because we know that he's exposed to lots of risks, his trajectory, his pathway, looks very challenging. And for him to turn it around, his voice has to be heard, but also, he probably hasn't had a lot of people that said, ‘Well, have you thought about this? Have you thought about that?  How do we support you?’ So, I do agree that the opportunity to have some coordinated approach to service provision for supports is crucial, because unfortunately, the Juvenile Justice System or the court response can also be part of the challenge, because for me, if you look at the history of the rise of the juvenile court internationally, young people that are exhibiting youthful offending behaviour, delinquency, these are signs of institutional breakdown.

So it's really an institutional breakdown, familial, community, other systems. So the challenge is not to lock them up or keep saying, ‘lightly, lightly.’ To me, it's a lever that says there's something wrong here and how do we develop services which can provide a layer of protection for Jake so that he can develop a pro-social pathway? So that's whether that's in sports, in schooling, in other kinds of ways that he can be productive and to minimise his risks. So I think it's a very challenging case, but thinking of an MST approach, Multiple Systemic Therapy approach, but thinking holistically about schooling, sports, education, health, is really the challenge. The Criminal Justice System is, I mean this is a 10-year-old boy, so that should be avoided. But I think as, if he escalates over time, the ‘lightly, lightly’ approach actually can cause other problems, because he learns that, ‘there's no consequences for my misbehaviour.’ So, I think it's really about using where he's at as a lever to build supports around him.

Professor Elena Marchetti

And I'm wondering how much training do teachers get to deal with this kind of situation, and I guess it has to be ongoing training. So let's look at what's happening to Jake. He's now 14. He started high school, but actually has only been marginally involved in his high school. He's attended for periods of time, but it's really patchy, and really for the last six months he hasn't been at school at all. He's still in the care system. In fact, he's been cycled through a number of additional foster care arrangements and has finally ended up in Resi Care, a residential care facility where he lives with four other young people. It's the policy of the facility where he lives to call the police when there’s an incident of misbehaviour with one of the residents. So, after Jake's been living there for a few months, he loses his temper with another resident, his anger gets the better of him, and he kicks a hole in the wall and physically assaults another resident.

Of course, the police are called, which is the policy. And Jake risks being charged with wilful damage and assault occasioning bodily harm. So Cheryl Scanlon, it's getting a little bit more serious now. What would the police do in this situation?

Detective Superintendent Cheryl Scanlon

Thanks very much. So, obviously we've got behaviour escalating. I want to firstly talk about the policy about police callouts. It's one of my favourite subjects. It causes me the most anxiety from police around the state at different times from residential care facilities, and there's a lot of work going on in that space at the moment with other agencies. I certainly want to comment on Deputy Commissioner Cheryl Leavy's work at the QFCC. Cheryl's currently chairing a group that we started in August this year to have some further intervention around how to try and reduce those callouts.

Sadly, what happens is that when there are policies and those types of arrangements in care facilities, for a range of reasons police are often accused of criminalising children in those facilities. Sadly, many of the callouts potentially shouldn't be matters that the police should be there for at all. And in fact, if these were children with their own parents, what would we expect a normal parent to do? So, that's a piece of work in progress. We know it's an issue. It's a huge impost for us and there are many, many occasions that we don't believe the police really should be intervening, so some good work working down that space. What are the options for this young fellow now? Well, Jake's at an age where, he's 14, so again, we'd revisit the fact that he is a child that is eligible for a range of options under the Youth Justice Act.

Would we consider a caution if the criteria is met? Yes, children can be cautioned a number of times, depending on, as I say, the admissions are there and there's an opportunity to move through that process. We may consider the option of restorative justice, because he's a little bit older, and there may be some real potential. And I've seen some very good work done in youth justice conferencing over the years, where a young person becomes involved and more engaged in the process and we might include a victim in that process, an apology, that type of process, so that there's input from both sides. So, he's a little bit older, we might consider that option. If the child was, again, in that space with no interview, no admissions, we would place the child before the Court. Sometimes we don't receive complaints from residential care facilities if there's damage done or assaults. Sometimes people don't make complaints, in which case, no action, but we would certainly be talking to the Department of Child Safety if this child is in care, we would certainly be having that conversation with the Department as the legal guardian.

So, there are some options for us, but again, it's a case by case basis, and each child is different, and each of the sets of circumstances that come before us are different, so there's no one size fits all for these types of interventions.

Professor Elena Marchetti

I'm going to go off the script a little bit and go to the Greek chorus and see what some of you might have to say about this issue of Resi Care [Residential Care] and how the police are called when there's that sort of misbehaviour happening. Do any of you have any opinions about that or anything to say? Anyone? Yeah, you're the spokesperson.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

At his point in time, he's feeling a bit lonely. He has support around him still, but he still feels like he can't trust anyone. At this point he could really use someone to fall back on, to turn to, to be able to seek real guidance. Someone that he can trust deeply and get his life back on track.

Professor Elena Marchetti

And your Honour, if he came before your court. Oh, sorry I didn't see your hand.

Female youth, Greek Chorus

Also, I reckon that moving around a lot, from my past experience, I've been in Resis and moving around from foster care, to foster care, he needs stability. So, I think that's why he's acting up quite a bit too, because just shifting from place to place, there's no rules, no guidelines.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you. That's important. That was a little bit of what Paul was saying as well before, and also Cheryl, and so, your Honour, if he came before you...

Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O’Shea

Adding to what the young lady of the Greek Chorus just said, this is the type of incident that could trigger a move, because he's done something very negative there, and I think, I mean you wouldn't be necessarily moved out of home if you did something at home with your parents. If you broke a window because you smashed something, threw a ball at it in anger or something like that. I'm just a bit uncertain about where in the history of Jake we're in with youth justice. I would've normally seen some children in this situation with evade fares, they don't pay fares on railways, on trains. Maybe taking some things from shops, UTAGs, unlawfully taking away goods. They would normally be also the type of things.

They don't get a lot of money to spend, so they see a nice t-shirt, they take it. In the beginning, we also exercise cautions if we believe the police should have issued a caution rather than another penalty. We usually look at early offending reprimands and good behaviour orders, which really have no step of taking the children into the Youth Justice System proper. Into the probation and community service where you've got to go and mix with all the other kids on probation and community service. That's one thing I try to keep kids out of. Mixing with other kids who are in the Youth Justice System, as much as I can for as long as I can. The other really important thing that's come on board in the last twelve months, are the Restorative Justice Conferences, because they’re family, someone representing the victim, often the victim themselves, and a youth justice facilitator work with the kids to talk to them about what they've done, what the impact on the victim is, and there's the victim in front of them.

Actually, facing them, and often the victims forgive them, because they can see they're young children who, you know, he's 14. He probably only looks like he's about twelve because that's what I find, kids who haven't had proper nutrition and things like that do look much younger than they really are, and in the Restorative Justice Conference, the kids are able to have support people around them, so there's people supporting them while they hear all of this information much better than a court outcome. Much better, and I try to use those where I can, and there's various stages of restorative justice too. It can be not even a sentence to send them there. It can be, ‘let's see what they do at restorative justice and then impose a sentence’, or somewhere in-between. But I find the reports that come back from youth justice often are really showing that the child is being heard and people are understanding what their issues in their lives are.

I'd also, when I was talking to Jake in court, I’d talk to him about trying not to get into trouble. This is what I do with children, and I try to talk to them quite nicely. I tell them that sometimes I get really not nice in speaking to them when this goes on and on and they're coming back doing more and more serious things. I try to tell them that court is not a good place to be. It's not somewhere they should try and get, and that I'm not really a good person to know, and I do all of the notices to appears of children. Just about every child, when they're first charged in Brisbane, comes before me, and I'll do the pleas if they're easy pleas. If they're more complicated matters, they'll then go on to a court where we have to manage their legal matters as well, and I don't necessarily do those. I could've said a thousand more things, but...

Professor Elena Marchetti

We're going to move to the Greek Chorus actually. We're going to hear from them.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

Being able to relate to Jake moving to a foster place at young teenage years, He would feel very blocked off and lonely. Not being able to open up and build a strong, stable relationship one on one with a person and not being able to get out and do something that he would want to do and feel comfortable with the environment that he's in, and seeing all different people and not knowing what's really going to happen to him later on.

Professor Elena Marchetti

So what do you think about that idea of him being kept away from his peer group that he's been engaging with?

Male youth, Greek Chorus

It would be hard for him to make some friends. He'd be hanging around the wrong people, but he wouldn't really know what a good option for him is at that point in time.

Female youth, Greek Chorus

I feel like Jake needs to be handled really quite, right away with his problems getting back at him, because they look like they're eating away at him as he gets older and he's going from bad to worse. So I think he needs a mentor immediately because of the things that have happened as a young boy, as a baby even. So I think a mentor, a really positive one, and also a mentor that will be there for a long time because it takes time to work with kids, such as Jake. I think that also that will be hard to get alone because his parents, ever since he was a baby, didn't even treat him right. He doesn't know who to trust.

A police officer could be great to talk to youth justice, but how will he know that? I think that Jake needs someone to look over him over time, because time tells everything, and I think time will help Jake be better.

Professor Elena Marchetti

What a great idea. Is there someone else who...?  No? Okay. We might move to Jake at fifteen, so I'm going to skip forward a little bit. It's twelve months later, he's had two more interactions with police for theft offences, then one night Jake is out with a few of his mates. They're at the local primary school and they're drinking and smoking some ice. One of the boys has brought some spray cans and they begin tagging the walls of some of the buildings. There's a wheelie bin nearby, and as part of the fun on that night, the boys set it alight. It ends up burning higher than expected and it made me wonder what the cladding was on that building. And suddenly a nearby roof catches fire, and before the fire service can get there, considerable damage has been done to the school. The boys have ridden away, but someone has seen them and the police are called. They are tracked back to Jake's Resi Care facility and Jake is charged with trespassing, possession of a dangerous drug, endangering property by fire, and wilful damage. So Cheryl Scanlon, what's the police response at this point, and I can just imagine.

Detective Superintendent Cheryl Scanlon

I think you've already covered that when you said he's already been charged, but again, this young fellow is on a trajectory now with a group of young people who are involved and their behaviour is escalating, and once we incorporate drugs into the mix, and a different cohort of friends around him, we're on a different path here and we're now getting into the range of serious offences where you're looking at potentially an arson offence. We might, in a different scenario, maybe consider for more serious offences we can still community conference young people, restorative justice conference for young people. But in this instance by this scenario, this young fellow has been charged. So the challenges will be for police, is the residential care issue is continuing. We would continue to see that pattern of out at night, out of the Resi Care, and the behaviour with a different cohort, potentially, of young people. The drug issue will become a problem because ice, as we know, the addiction rate and how quickly that can impact people. I would think the spiral is considerably quicker now that he's engaged in this type of behaviour, and for me that would have escalated dramatically.

It's one of those situations where he would be before the court. What the Magistrate may order in terms of whether he comes back to a conference or might be another pattern. But again our problem would be, where do we place this young fellow? There's every likelihood that they won't be back to that placement. That there may be another placement or another option in terms of bail, and so the cycle moves on. If we were of the view that the risk of re-offending and this young fellow's own safety is at risk, we might consider whether there’s a need for the child to be in custody, which is an absolute last resort. But again, trying to place this young person, of an evening if he's charged again, police would be back in touch with the Department of Child Safety after hours around finding a suitable placement, advising what's happened, that he's been charged, and before the court and the cycle continues.

Professor Elena Marchetti

He's fifteen years old with a pretty traumatic background. I'm going to hand over to the Greek Chorus again because I know someone, one of the young people would like to say something.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

I feel like Jake's friends have a big influence on him. I can relate to that, I feel. Like she said, he needs a positive role model. Someone that he could look up to, someone that's always there for him.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Do you think he might get that in a detention facility?

Male youth, Greek Chorus

No.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Paul, do you have anything...  I'm going to hand over to Deputy Chief Magistrate in a minute, but just very quickly, as a criminologist.

Professor Paul Mazerolle

So he's 15, he's got a number of different risks and, I think, as the Greek Chorus has correctly mentioned, the chance to have positive role models, people that believe in Jake and want to listen to Jake and to understand what makes Jake tick, I think, is really crucial, and that that person's not going to change in a month or two. So obviously, Jake has a plethora of risks and he's facing some serious consequences by the juvenile justice system. But aside from that, there's a whole parallel universe for him of support, care, pro-social role models, pro-social activity, people that believe in him, because obviously he hasn't had that for most of his whole life.

The juvenile justice response, the Justice can talk about that, there's opportunities there. There's also risks, and I think with all that's going on in Jake's life he does need structure, he needs people believing in him, and he needs a reset to his trajectory.

Professor Elena Marchetti

It certainly is sliding doors scenario. Your Honour, there's a couple of courts that I want to ask you about, one is the Townsville High Risk Youth Court, which you've had a role in establishing, and also the Murri Court, which operates in Cairns. Is there a role there for the Elders in that court in terms of the Youth Murri Court that is. Which one would you say is better for Jake at the moment?

Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O’Shea

Well we have a Youth Murri Court, there's one in Brisbane at the moment.

Elena Marchetti

Oh, okay, that’s not operating in Cairns?

Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O’Shea

And I don't think they have a Youth Murri Court in Cairns. I know there's another one about to get underway in Caboolture to start up early next year or later this year.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Let’s assume it is in Cairns, though.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O’Shea

If it was in Cairns, and when we've got an Adult Murri Court, the magistrates are often quite keen to have a Youth Murri Court, but it's a lot of work for the Elders. The people who come along and assist, because they're already giving a lot of time to the court.

What happens in a Youth Murri Court is much the same as what happens in court, except that... and I sit in the dedicated Murri Court, which means I sit down on a level with the Elders. The Elders sit beside me, either side, and when the facts are all out and we've heard from the legal representative for the defendant and the prosecutor, then the Elders have a chance to talk to the young person about his or her offending and how they feel about it. Maybe sometimes how they feel he's let down his fellow Aboriginals, and sometimes they get a bit cross with him.

It's not like a magistrate talks to him. Sometimes I feel he's getting a bit of a shouting at that I think oh, I'd like to just try and make it not sound that bad because he has pleaded guilty. You've got to plead guilty in a Youth Murri Court. So he is owning up to what he did, and I think I like to see the young people be encouraged when they are owning up to what they've done, and of course we've got to give them penalties, and they will get much the same penalty. It's not an easy out, it's actually quite a demanding process for the young person, and I see in the audience my ATSILS [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service] lawyer who represents the young children in the Murri Court, but I like the children to come there because some of them don't have much to do with their Elders, and I like them to get the feel that there are Elders around who want to be involved with them, even if they haven't been involved with Elders or even Aboriginal people to any large extent.

And there's a lot of young people like that with their Aboriginality, they don't get to be involved with the Aboriginal culture, which is such a rich culture and I think they can just get so much more out of that if they're allowed to get involved with it.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Can I quickly mention a comment on the Townsville...?

Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O’Shea

Townsville High Risk Youth Court, it's open to Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal children. It's operating with those children who are at high risk of various things. Causing themselves injury, serious injury. Causing others serious injury. A lot of burglaries, unlawful uses, using cars in ways that are just very inappropriate, and what the system there does is it's a wrap-around system. They have Child Safety, Department of Housing, ATSILS are involved, Legal Aid are involved, the Adolescent Forensic Mental Health Service, the District Law Association are involved, the Police, Department of Education, all of the departments are there, and Youth Justice tries to get them all involved in the young person's life, and their families.

The family is treated as a unit, not just the child. So if the child is identifying with a family, the family is included in all of the main issues of discussion, and Youth Justice has provided a lot of help in that situation in making sure that things are happening.

Professor Elena Marchetti

We're running out of time, but I just wanted to hear from Cheryl Leavy, just very quickly on some of those issues that her Honour raised.

Deputy Commissioner Cheryl Leavy

I just wanted to comment that, just putting another stat out there to lay the groundwork, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, aged between 10 and 17 years, are 24 times more likely to be detained than a non-indigenous child. I also wanted to say that kids who are re-connected with culture, kids who are safe and strong in culture, fare better. We know that to be true. Contact with the criminal justice system is harmful to all children, not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and particularly at an early age. If you come into contact with the Criminal Justice System, you're more likely to experience poorer life outcomes in general, such as poorer mental health, poorer physical health outcomes, and increased difficulties in gaining employment and in having safe and ongoing housing options.

You're also less likely to complete your education or undertake further training and continue and complete your studies, and all of these things are ways out and we’re basically creating this negative cycle instead of a virtuous cycle for young people. I think it's also important to mention that sometimes it's just necessary to call the police. Sometimes the Criminal Justice System is the right place for issues like this to be resolved. We need to balance the rights of the child and the rights of victims, and sometimes children are also the victims, so there's a balance there in terms of considering what some of us might like to think of as cut-and-dry human rights issues for children. It's not always cut-and-dry.

I just also wanted to comment on the issue of police call-outs to residential care, it is something that the QFCC is working with other agencies on at the moment, and my key point there would be about ensuring we continue to take a trauma-informed approach. In Jake's case, it doesn't seem like that's ever really happened for him. A trauma-informed approach recognises the presence of trauma and the symptoms of trauma, particularly for kids living in Out of Home Care, which is one of my key focuses at the moment, and it acknowledges the role of trauma in the patterns of behaviour that we're seeing in the life of Jake, and it aims to support him and help him manage his emotions and find ways of self-regulating his own behaviour. We'd need to keep on challenging the reliance of calling police to engage and do this and enforce this at a very early stage, and to help Jake to do this for himself at a very early stage.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you, that's great. Was there someone in the Greek Chorus?

Male youth, Greek Chorus

Yes, at this point in time I believe Jake is old enough to understand what's going on around him. I believe that he is conscious of the decisions that he is making, that means he should be able to understand that what he has done is wrong and that consequences will be made against him, but then also asking him that what would he want to do and exactly, what he wants to do when he grows older. What he wants in that sort of situation, and then finding alternatives and working around it to meet his demands, but also making sure that... also with further work with him that he would be able to understand what he's done wrong and move out of that domestic situation.

Professor Elena Marchetti

So maybe taking a strength-based approach in determining what are his strengths and what are his needs, as well as addressing the behavioural issues.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

I believe Jake at the moment would feel he doesn't have a belonging anywhere, and he's using that to find a belonging with people that are in a similar situation to him where they just want to have a bit of fun and get up to no good, which is not the ideal thing. If he could have the opportunity to play sports or do activities with other kids that he would want to do, then that would help him a lot more because then that way he can feel that he is wanted and is being enjoyed around other people instead of feeling left out and being the odd one out.

Professor Elena Marchetti

I read an interesting idea recently that was suggested in the UK where instead of sending young people to a detention facility, send them to a very expensive boarding school with great sports, opportunities and things like that. Wonder how that would go?

Female youth, Greek Chorus

Excuse me, I just want to quickly go. I think Jake... I do agree with one of my teammates over here saying that he will know the difference between right and wrong now because he's getting old enough. But I also feel that it's never too late to help anyone no matter what age they are, but I do think also there's a better time to grip a young offender or a young person with problems at an earlier stage in their life, because this way we can help them have better stepping stones to a better life earlier. Jake, he has his right and wrongs, and growing up, will have to acknowledge them as well, to take responsibility as a young man, but I also think that it's never too late to help him no matter what age he gets, but there's just a better time to grip that than later. I think now is good rather than later, but I think there's always hope for any young person that is misguided ever since they were younger.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you. I'm actually going to go to Stephen Stathis in a minute, so you're going to be my last... throw over to, but I'm just going to finish up with Jake at eighteen. He's out of the care system, he's eighteen now, and also he's out of the Youth Justice System. His parents are long gone, in fact he's got no connection with any of his family or any of his carers that he's had over the course of his experience in the care system. He's had no job, he hasn't finished school, and he's got a reasonable juvenile criminal history as we've discovered. We find Jake sleeping on a mate's couch, and I know I meant to turn to you, Paul, now, but I'm actually going to turn to Stephen and ask Stephen, can you just...based on particularly what the young people have been saying and I was thinking about the development of the brain, before we were talking about him at fifteen and I know that a person's brain doesn't develop fully until about twenty-five. I'm just keen to hear what you've got to say.

Dr Stephen Stathis

About the brain development?

Professor Elena Marchetti

Or just anything in general. What are Jake's chances at this point?

Dr Stephen Stathis

Okay, so briefly about the brain development yes, the brain continues to develop from 25 and on, and there's a lot of new research about brain plasticity. A lot of that research is in people who've had an acute traumatic injury, a motor vehicle accident, or something that's caused acute trauma to the brain. There's less evidence about plasticity in brains that have had chronic trauma over years upon year upon year. But it's not all too negative. I just wanted first of all, I want you to think who remembers Jake's dad's name? Anyone? Oh you did, you were listening. I think Aidan is a ghost. We haven't heard of him for 18 years, but the ghost is still having an influence. Think about it, Aidan was partly employed but he didn't finish school, there was alcohol and violence in his life. He had Jake when he was 19, Jake is now 18.

So what can we do to change that? Jake reminded me of a young person who I saw for a long period of time when I worked in the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, and then I followed up after as a young adult for a shorter period of time, and he actually did very well, and I asked him... remember when I talked about attachment, and attachment theory?  Attachment theory explains resilience, and we were talking about resilience, and he said, ‘Dr Steve, I get it now. Resilience is what makes me strong.’  And we talked about it and I'm thinking of four factors he said, most of all – many of which the Greek Chorus brought up and we brought up here – and those four factors were: he had a pro-social peer group and mentor, he had stopped or significantly reduced his substance use. A single dose of speed will stuff-up your neuro transmitters for up to a month, okay? He had meaningful employment, he was also an Aboriginal young fellow and he was connected back to his country and he visited. He was from up north.

Those four factors changed his life. Mental health issues were really low down, and I actually did very little except listen to him. It wasn't me that did anything, it was those four issues. If we want to change the trajectory, if we want to stop Jake being the ghost for Jake junior in another 18 years’ time, that's what you need to focus on. Pro-social peer groups and relationships, reduction in substance use, meaningful employment, and for indigenous young people, for any young person, a connection with what counts, and if you’re indigenous, then it’s country.

Professor Elena Marchetti

I've just realised here you reminded me a little bit of Dr Carl on Triple J. Anyway, just Paul, finally, what would you say in relation to all that?

Professor Paul Mazerolle

I would agree whole-heartedly with what Dr Steve said. I would also put another layer of risk or challenge on it, and that is based on what we know of the evidence, there's probably a 90% chance that Jake could end up in the adult system. So that’s the reality that needs to be confronted, so given his educational needs, his employment needs, his health needs, his social needs, his housing needs, he's got a lot of risks. So we can deal with the peer group issue, that's important, identify some pro-social issues, that's important. Job issues, that's one of the best protective factors, having jobs and skills.

But if he does end up in the adult system, there's still opportunities and there's good evidence that access to effective programs in prison even can re-direct and create positive futures for people. So if Jake does end up in the system, there's opportunities for him to turn around, so let's hope he doesn't because he'll listen to the opportunity to connect with country to reduce his exposure to delinquent peers, think about pro-social modelling and have a sense of purpose about his future, but unfortunately the risks are very high for him to end up in the adult system.

Professor Elena Marchetti

So it's that time of the evening where I'm actually going to start wrapping up, I'm going to first of all thank the panel members for your contribution. It's been incredibly valuable to have your insights, and I'm sure everyone here would agree that it's helped us understand a lot more about what's happened to Jake, what's happened to Aidan, Sheree as well, let's not forget the mother, and how we might be able to do things differently and make things better for Jake.

I'm going to shine the light on the Greek Chorus now and if you've got anything that you want to add to these final things, I'll ask you something else in a minute as well, which...

Female youth, Greek Chorus

I would like to thank you for your insight on the situation and I've learned a whole lot being here, so thank you very much and I think most of us along these seats have either experienced or know of the situation that Jake has gone through. So we are very happy to have your comments and insight on the situation very much. Even though we either experienced the situation or know someone in the situation, we here have places to go because we’ve got great mentors and all the things that we thought that could help Jake. I think we're more and beyond that point, so it was great to hear that, and it's great that we're on the right path, because I feel like I'll be able to get a great job soon, or either I'll be on the right track as of these guys as well. These guys, I've met most of them today and they look like they're going far and great places, so I want to thank you on behalf of us as a team for your insight, very much, so thank you.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you. Would any of you like to share a little bit more about your plans? You don't have to share about that, you can share about anything.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

It was a pleasure coming here. It's good to get around and see people that genuinely care for the youth and I think that is the biggest thing, because if Jake could see that there was that one person that was persistently there and genuinely cared for him throughout the tough times and wanted someone to be there to look out for him, then it could've been a whole lot different for him, with that leader, that mentor there, by his side the whole way.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Anyone else?

Male youth, Greek Chorus

Hello everyone, I'd just like to appreciate everything that you've all done tonight, and I've learnt a lot listening to everyone and their opinions and I think that he would've done a lot better with that little bit of guidance because he would have had a lot of neglect and just felt alone a lot and then that's probably how he ended up going down the same path. He would've looked for that guidance in that group he was hanging around, and that's why he went down that path, but I believe if he had the right guidance and maybe a bit more stability he would've been good. I appreciate being here.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Thank you.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

I just want to thank youth justice and T2S [Transition 2 Success] for letting us become who we are today, and taking us under their wing and helping us out.  I reckon we need some more youth workers around the state, and I just reckon teachers need to be more understanding of a child's life and how they live the past and, that's all.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

I want to thank the panel and everyone for turning up, it means a lot for me myself and the rest of the guys here. Shows that even though we don't know all you guys that you genuinely care about the same thing that we care about, and in our case, we care about Jake and his wellbeing. T2S helped us a lot, because we're going through similar things to Jake, and when we found the right people within the organisation that genuinely care about our wellbeing, it made it a lot easier for ourselves to turn up to T2S and to complete these courses that you pretty much lay out in front of us, but for us to take on board and that's the biggest thing that I want to thank you about.

Our experiences, I was one of the first people that started in T2S where I come from, and now I've completed two courses from there and I found myself a job through T2S, and where I work at now is a very stable job and we get to have the opportunity to travel all around the world, and to me I don't know where I'll end up, but all I know is that I'll be in a happy place and hopefully one day I would be able to meet Jake and have a good day and have a laugh.

Female youth, Greek Chorus

I guess it just goes to show that, at the end of the day, no matter what you go through there's no excuse. You can change your life at any time, so that's why we're all here today. We've all taken that step, and we have had that guidance from Youth Justice and T2S. So I'd like to thank you all. I'm now starting a cert three in community services through Youth Justice, and I aim to be a Resi worker, that's where I want to go. Thank you.

Male youth, Greek Chorus

First of all, I just want to thank you all for having us here, but also I want to thank Youth Justice and T2S for making me the man I am today, for helping me, supporting me with everything. If it wasn't for T2S I really wouldn't be here today, so thank you. And thank you for all the youth workers.

Professor Elena Marchetti

Couple of things, T2S is Transition to Success, and I just want to say a lot of you said that you learnt a lot from these people tonight, but I think we've learned a lot from you and we're extremely grateful for you turning up, giving your time, and also your thoughts and I think you're very articulate and smart people and you can achieve a lot and there’s a lot of people I think who believe that. So thank you so much.

[The video cuts out here]

So that concludes the formal part of the event. And as with most events, we’re interested in hearing your feedback. So you’re going to get an email tomorrow to complete a short survey, and we really hope you complete it because it improves, we use it to improve our public information events. And also it helps us to determine who we’ll ask to speak at future events, so not to rate these people that’s not what I meant.

One of the other things I just want to mention quickly is that registrations are now open for our fourth seminar this year, it’s on Tuesday the 17th of October and we’re hosting the chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to child sexual abuse and Justice Peter McClellan. So this seminar will provide an opportunity to hear and better understand the recently released Criminal justice report which made 85 recommendations aiming to reform the Australian criminal justice system in relation to providing a fairer response to victims of institutional child sexual abuse. So there’s details on our website which is sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au.

I’d like to finally thank Griffith University and the Griffith Criminology Institute for supporting the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council. Without your support this would not have happened. Once again I would also like to thank our Secretariat who’ve done a lot of hard work, they’ve put in a lot of hard work to make this happen. The Griffith Criminology Institute has actually put on a tab so there’s a few drinks available, so you don’t have to pay for them and there’s also some food. Well you’ll have to show id. But there’s not a lot so there’s a small tab. Anyway, if you’d like to go outside and join us. And thank you very, very much for coming to all of you here and on the live web stream.