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Queensland police diversion study again shows Indigenous over-representation

Media Release

23 March 2010

Indigenous young people have once again been over-represented in a study of young people's contact with the juvenile justice system released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

Police diversion of young offenders and Indigenous over-representation, presents the findings of a project examining offenders born in 1990 and their contacts for formal police cautioning, police-referred conferencing and finalised juvenile court appearances in the Queensland juvenile justice system.

There were 8,236 young people born in 1990 who had had contact with the Queensland juvenile justice system between 2000 and 2007 when aged 10 to 16 years. These young people were responsible for 17,242 contacts with the system for 45,519 offences.

When gender and Indigenous status were examined it was found that two in three of all Indigenous males and one in four Indigenous females had had an offending contact by the age of 17 years, compared to one in 10 non-Indigenous males and one in 20 females.

While Indigenous young people in the general population were found to be 4.5 times more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system than non-Indigenous young people, they were three times less likely to be cautioned than they were to appear in court, two times less likely to have a police conference than appear in court, and 1.5 times less likely to be cautioned than attend a conference for their first contact with the system.

One of the report's authors, Griffith University's Professor Anna Stewart, said the project looked at the extent of Indigenous over-representation, evidence of disparity in how young people were processed and the impact of diversion on re-contact with the system.

"The study looked at whether increased use of pre-court diversionary processes such as police cautioning or conferencing could help to reduce Indigenous over-representation in the system," Professor Stewart said.

"This research suggests that preventing initial contact and reducing re-contact for Indigenous young people is somewhat more important for 'closing the gap' than addressing the issue of disparity in the use of diversionary processes and highlights the need to develop targeted welfare-orientated interventions to address the needs of Indigenous young people."

AIC media contact: Caterina Giugovaz Telephone: 02 6260 9226; Mobile: 0418 221 798.