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Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow: A National Portrait. A presentation to Heads of Jurisdiction by Allan Borowski and Rosemary Sheehan Launceston, Tasmania Thursday 6 April 2006. Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow: A National Portrait.

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Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

A presentation to

Heads of Jurisdiction

by

Allan Borowski and Rosemary Sheehan

Launceston, Tasmania

Thursday 6 April 2006


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait1

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Content of Presentation

  • Who are we?

  • Objectives of the Study

  • Background

  • Some Past Changes in the Children’s Courts

  • Possible Future Directions

  • Previous Research

  • Significance of the Proposed Study

  • Methodology

  • Communication of Results

  • Funding

  • Our Undertakings

  • What the Study Asks of You


Who are we

Who are we?

  • Allan Borowski BComm, DipSocStuds, MA (Hons) (Melbourne) PhD (Brandeis)

    Early career in juvenile probation and parole in Victoria

    Currently Professor , School of Social Work and Social Policy, La Trobe University.

    Has researched juvenile crime, justice and corrections in the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and Australia.

    Books: Juvenile Delinquency in Australia (1985); Juvenile Crime, Justice and Corrections (1997).

    Proposal to evaluate Children’s Koori Court of Victoria, funding permitting.

  • Rosemary Sheehan B Soc Stud (Syd), MSW (La Trobe), PhD (Monash).

    Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University.

    Pre-Hearing Conference Convenor, Children’s Court of Victoria.

    Research areas: child welfare and the law, mental health, family violence and judicial and correctional responses to women offenders.

    Current research projects look at experiences of children of parents who in criminal justice system

    Book, Magistrates’ Decision-Making in Matters of Child Protection published in 2001 by Ashgate (UK), a study of judicial decision-making in child welfare matters.


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait2

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Objectives of the Study

1. Identify contemporary status and current challenges faced by Australia’s Children’s Courts from the perspective of key stakeholders.

  • Identify the reforms in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and child welfare jurisdiction that key stakeholders believe are necessary

  • Gather information from key stakeholders about the effectiveness of new approaches introduced in recent times into the child welfare jurisdiction and child welfare and juvenile justice systems


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait3

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Background

  • 8 jurisdictions in Australia

  • The Children’s Court is a dynamic institution

  • Grounds for child protection interventions and the structures for and nature of statutory responses vary

  • Marked differences in rates of juvenile detention

  • Salience and frequency of concerns about juveniles and child welfare matters vary from State to State

  • Over-representation of indigenous youth


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait4

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Some Past Changes

  • From joint to separate child welfare and criminal jurisdictions within the Children’s Courts.

  • Developments of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, e.g., family group conferencing, pre-hearing conferences, etc.

  • Increased emphasis on rights of the child and due process

  • Pre-Court diversionary programs (e.g., Police Cautioning)

  • Increased seriousness of offences and offenders dealt with in court


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait5

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Possible Future Directions

  • Abolition of criminal jurisdiction (advocated by some in US)

  • Greater use of problem-oriented courts, e.g., Youth Drug Courts

  • Specialist court with problem-solving and therapeutic overtones, e.g., the Children’s Koori Court in Victoria

  • Integration of the Children’s Court and the Family Court

  • From an adversarial to an inquisitorial approach

  • Increased use of public-private partnerships in service provision

  • Greater case management/supervision role for court

  • Problem-solving role incorporating principles of therapeutic jurisprudence


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait6

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Previous Research

  • No previous Australian studies have sought magistrates’/judges’ views

  • Overseas studies of judges (US and Canada) have focused on criminal jurisdiction exclusively, e.g., sanctioning ideology, factors shaping case disposition decision, attitudes to remand, sentencing and “binding over” to adult courts.


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait7

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Significance of Study

  • Is timely given contemporary debates about the shape of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems

  • Children’s Courts and their judicial officers have never been the subject of a national study.

  • Focus on child welfare and criminal jurisdictions

  • National focus permits comparisons between Australia’s 8 jurisdictions.

  • Findings important in informing new policy directions


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait8

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Methodology

  • Step 1: Prepare profile of each jurisdiction to create a broad brush pictures of issues and challenges in each State/Territory

  • Step 2: 1-2 focus groups in each capital city with key stakeholders (police, legal aid lawyers, Department of Community Services, advocacy groups)

  • Step 3: Individual interviews with Heads of Jurisdiction (President/Chief Judge, Senior Magistrate) other city-based and circuit judges/magistrates.

  • Step 4: Informed by analysis of data generated in Steps 1-3, a mailed survey of all other judges/magistrates who deal with Children’s Court matters, especially in non-metropolitan regions


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait9

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Methodology (continued)

  • Focus group and individual interviews will be analysed thematically

  • Mailed survey is analysed quantitatively.

  • Duration of study: 2 years

  • Aim to commence in March 2007

  • Research Advisory Committee will be established to oversee the study


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait10

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Communication of Results

  • Presentation to of findings to meeting of Heads of Jurisdiction in late 2008/early 2009

  • Executive summary of research report provided to each interviewee

  • Proactive distribution of executive summary to key figures in child welfare and juvenile justice

  • Presentation of findings at appropriate fora, e.g. conferences

  • Ideally, research will be published as a book.


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait11

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Funding for Research

  • An Australian Research Council Linkages Grant is sought by La Trobe University (with participation of Monash Uni) with the industry partners as the Law Foundations of Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

  • A parallel application will be submitted to the Criminology Research Council.

  • Advice re funding should be available by the end of 2006.


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait12

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Undertakings

  • To obtain ethics committee approvals as required before beginning the study

  • Provide opportunity for Heads of Jurisdiction to comment on draft research report for errors of omission/commission

  • To ensure confidentiality of identity of research participants

  • To securely store research data


Australia s children s courts today and tomorrow a national portrait13

Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

What the Study Asks of You

  • Your support

  • Letters of support and perhaps other documentation for both grant application and ethics committee approval purposes

  • Agreement to be interviewed by the researchers

  • Encouragement of your judicial colleagues and other stakeholders to participate in the study

  • Appointment of contact persons in each jurisdiction to facilitate carrying out Steps 1-4 of the study by the researchers

  • Nominating a representative to the Research Advisory Committee

  • Comments on draft research report.


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Australia’s Children’s Courts Today and Tomorrow:A National Portrait

Thank you very much.


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