By Alesha Capone
Several organizations including Victoria University (VU) have come together with a plan to end “youth criminalization” in the municipalities of Brimbank, Melton and Wyndham.
The 10-year pilot program, TARGET ZER0, aims to reduce the number of children and young people involved in the justice system, especially those of indigenous and culturally diverse origin, and those living in institutions.
In addition to VU, the TARGET ZER0 alliance includes the Center for Multicultural Youth, WEstjustice, Jesuit Social Services, Anglicare and the Western Metropolitan Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee.
The pilot program, which has yet to receive government funding, will address the reasons why young people end up in the justice system, including poverty, racism, trauma, family violence and substance abuse.
“Targeted programs co-designed with the community will enable young people and their families to break the cycle of arrests, charges, convictions and incarceration that can permanently mar the lives of young people,” said a statement from VU.
VU Lecturer in Youth Work, Dr Karen Hart said the pilot aimed to work with the boarding community “to eliminate disadvantages in the early years to prevent the involvement of children and young people in the community. juvenile justice system “.
“The TARGET ZER0 initiative highlights the need and offers a solution to do something different from what we have been doing in our western communities,” said Dr Hart.
“A combined effort means we need global community engagement from nonprofits, our local councils, the police, our health, welfare, education and justice systems. , Out-of-Home Care and Child Protection System, all working together to create referral pathways that lead to better developmental opportunities for children and young people in West Melbourne.
“It is intentionally ambitious to bring the collective parties together, as this has not been achieved in West Melbourne and there are few to no examples of this type of initiative working elsewhere.”
Dr Hart said that while Wyndham, Brimbank and Melton have “the greatest need in terms of disadvantages” when it comes to helping young people, the three regions also have a variety of diverse services available to young people. youth.