Bishop Philip Huggins, the Vicar-General of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, has called for a fresh approach to the growing problem of youth crime in the state of Victoria.
His comments come after a spate of
riots and violent crimes by young offenders over many months and a mass
breakout from a youth justice centre earlier this week.
have announced plans for a new high security juvenile prison that will
be built for the state’s worst youth criminals.
But Bishop Huggins has now called for a more strategic approach to
replace what he called the current fragmented system: “Problems evident
in Victoria’s youth justice system will not be solved simply with new
prisons and tougher sentences, and certainly not by just blaming
politicians or police”, he said. “There is a growing cohort of young
people who are dysfunctional at many levels, whose backgrounds may
involve domestic and family violence, unstable housing, problems of
addiction, and perhaps an inability to find positive social identity
through education and durable employment.”
In November rioting by teens at a
youth justice centre prompted the authorities to transfer some inmates
to a maximum security prison – a development that prompted the Anglican
and Catholic Archbishops of Melbourne to write a joint letter to the
state government, expressing concern and warning that teen-offenders’
welfare and chances of rehabilitation were at risk.
Bishop Huggins is now calling for a
long-term, bipartisan approach “based on a 20-year time-line so policies
and programs can assist young people, their families and communities
find healthier lives.”
He said that Anglican social care
agencies could contribute to finding a solution – and described a youth
summit last year organised by the chief commissioner of Police as a very
fruitful conversation: “We must build on this, particularly to examine
how society can better link the preventative and responsive work of the
health, education, community services, mental health, housing, police
and youth justice services with the work of such non-government agencies
as Anglicare and Brotherhood of St Laurence.”