When a Member of Parliament gets elected and comes to the House for
the first time, he or she comes with some preconceptions, some baggage
and some dreams.
When I first stood for Parliament I had a fair dollop of all three.
grew or diminished in proportion with the following election defeats,
until I finally won a seat and have retained it through two successive
No doubt it is the same for all of us when we start a new career or take up a new position.
Although we refine them and reshape them and when we are done – they don’t always look the same.
come to this role as Minister for Courts, Associate Minister of Social
Development with responsibility for Child Offending and Youth Crime and
Associate Minister of Justice with responsibility for Youth Justice with
my own set of preconceptions, baggage and dreams.
I want to share some of those with you today – I hope they don’t come across as misconceptions, nightmares and millstones.
I also want to talk with you about some of the areas the Government is looking at in the youth justice space.
While this isn’t specific to the youth of Auckland, it will have a real impact on them.
a rapidly growing youth population, particularly in South Auckland,
gains we make nationally will particularly pay off for Auckland.
of us will have had the experience of the child, the youth or the adult
who has been dealt to by life – their course charted by somebody else;
often incompetent and often just living out the pecking order of life of
being bullied so bullying someone else; covering up their fears – by
making others fearful; and having being neglected, by not knowing how to
really care; and having grown up with nothing to call their own of any
value – taking somebody else’s.
Those of my generation grew up in a
time when the way to respond to these societal infractions, was to
impose a sense of affront.
We treated everyone with a Janet and
John morality which was designed to punish and to correct, expecting
that discipline and admonishment would force the error of ones ways to
become clear – only to miss the bus and create a bigger problem than
what we’d bitten off in the first place.
In spite of all this, all
of us have had the experience where the young one at the bottom of this
pecking order and on the wrong end of society’s stick has shaken off
the dross and succeeded where we didn’t really expect them to.
Maybe they’ve done it in spite of us and not because of us.
They’ve often done it against all hope, predictions, academic study or belligerent prophesy.
is in that instant we had our buttons pushed and decided that it was in
this area of social policy, this corner of the legal system, which we
wanted to work in.
Although we may be surprised by the successes, the rush feels really, really good, when it comes.
have done Youth Justice better than anyone in the world in the past and
our model from the Children Young Persons and Their Families Act has
been picked up and replicated all around the world.
There will be
people in this room who when attending a conference overseas and it
being disclosed that you come from New Zealand, have been pumped for
People around the world recognise that we know some stuff – they want to pick our brain.
fact is that we’ve learned some new stuff and we need to start using
that as well, adding it to the mix, or we will be in danger of being
overtaken by those who we taught – they’ll be eating our lunch.
think the travesty of our history is that we’ve been able to identify
those who have every chance of failure for a long time and only
relatively recently have we been working pre-emptively instead of post
We’ve added to the mix of what we know over recent times and
worked to put things in place ahead of tragic events and it seems to
show signs of working.
In the Youth Justice space the Government
has implemented Fresh Start which is seeing fewer youth coming through
the criminal justice system, fewer youth in residences, and fewer youth
being sent to the adult court for sentencing.
We’ve given Judges
the opportunity to bolt on to the back of supervision with residence
orders, which we extended, supervision and alcohol and drug treatment
programs to lessen the churn of revolving doors on our institutions.
started working with kids before they have offended at a rate that
would see them inevitably come before the courts, and do everything we
can to steer them away from it.
We’ve implemented cautionary and
diversionary tracks to filter kids away from ending up drowning in a
youth justice system that some refer to as a ‘pipeline’.
personally have a problem with the expression because it seems to have a
despairingly foreseeable outcome – once you are in the pipeline you’re
on the way down the drain with no apparent hope.
I see the ideal system as one with many avenues of release and opportunities to escape.
year we have a number of opportunities to reflect on the way we do
youth justice in New Zealand. There are a number of chances to stop and
take a breath, evaluate and consider the next step.
That next step is vital.
The Government has committed to reducing youth crime, as part of the Better Public Service targets.
We want to see 600 fewer young people appearing before the court each year by 2017.
an audience who works in and around youth justice, I know you
understand exactly how difficult any significant reduction is going to
be to achieve.
Because those numbers will be filtered by warnings, diversion, and Family Group Conferences (FGCs) before a court appearance.
if 20 per cent of apprehensions result in an FGC, and only 20 per cent
of FGCs go on to a court appearance, taking 600 young people out of the
court list each year is a very hard nut to crack.
they are part of the 10 per cent of young people committing 50 per cent
of the crime, and any gain we can have here is a huge gain.
That is why we have to find that next step towards an ‘ideal’ youth justice system.
Here are some of the pieces of work which will help us towards it.
FAMILY GROUP CONFERENCE REVIEW
Child Youth and Family are currently reviewing the way Family Group Conferences are triggered and run.
They are looking at who does them best and what the best look like.
accept that there are problems around meeting deadlines, creating
delays and have recognised that sometimes the process has been more box
ticking than game changing.
This does not reflect the aspiration of those who wrote the legislation, nor the way New Zealanders want to system to work.
Resolutions then have become less reflective of best practise and this erodes public confidence.
Options vary across the country as do success and failure, recidivism and progress through the system – down the pipeline.
YOUTH OFFENDING TEAMS
Cross agency work in Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) is the most effective
way of addressing the multiple facets of troubling youth behaviour.
Where they work well they work very well indeed, but where they work badly it shows.
It seems that successful YOTs have a common theme, which is about the buy-in from the budget holder.
think what is riding on the outcomes of the work of YOTs is far too
important to be reliant on who is holding the purse strings.
is a review of Youth Offending Teams also underway. It’s going to give
us a clearer picture of what lays behind the good, the bad and the
SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT ON CHILD OFFENDING
In the last Parliamentary term the Social Services Select Committee
spent about a year or so looking at Child Offending and the way we
respond to it in New Zealand.
As a committee we visited the Family
Court, CYF sites and offices, a number of programs and residences,
interviewed agencies and practitioners, judges, and kids.
week the Select Committee sent that report to Parliament, with a number
of recommendations on how we can do better for child offending.
in the curious position of having been someone who took a lead role in
writing the report, and now being the Minister responsible for
developing the response to it.
I feel like I have done my own performance appraisal, given myself a rollicking, and have found that I need to pull my socks up!
Te Kooti Rangitahi have been operating on various marae throughout the North Island.
Rather than reflecting Marae justice, they have supplanted the Youth Court into a cultural environment.
Our senses tell us they have been successful but a formal evaluation has not yet been completed.
One is underway currently and we look forward to the release of that report.
The report will be a chance for us to evaluate how well Rangitahi courts are working, and how we can make them better.
MILITARY STYLE ACTIVITY CAMPS
These programs, which have become known as MAC Camps, were probably the
public focus of the Fresh Start Policy released when we came in to
government in November 2008.
They remained a hot topic right through Select Committee process.
Having had the chance to visit the MAC Camp at Te Puna Wai in Christchurch, I can tell you one thing about them quite clearly.
They are not Boot Camps.
The work of the Defence Force in teaching the young people discipline and teamwork is only one part of the MAC programme.
The majority is focused on education, treatment, and rehabilitation.
On the skills they will need to be productive and law abiding adults.
it’s too early to give a formal report on them, but our nose says that
they’re doing some great things, yet can still do better.
next few months we’ll be able to look at data from two years of MAC
camps, and build a real picture of where they work, and where they can
YOUTH OFFENDING STRATEGY
I want to add one more piece to the picture of what the Government is doing around youth justice.
Earlier this year the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, asked me to lead work on writing a new Youth Offending Strategy.
The 2002 document suited the times, and reflected the environment in which it was written.
Ten years later, society has changed, offending patterns have changed, and options for addressing offending have changed.
It became immediately apparent to me that a quick brush-up wasn’t going to cut it.
To deliver a real reduction in youth crime, we need a focused, practical guide.
We need a document which identifies what we’re doing well, and promotes that.
We also need to figure out what we’re doing wrong, and what we don’t know, and fix it.
Most importantly, it’s got to have credibility.
We’ve got to work with the youth justice sector, to listen to you, and produce a document that works for you.
It must be a practical action plan to guide government in delivering better results in youth justice.
To help me with this, I’ve gone beyond simply giving a ministry the task and sending them on their way.
got the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Development, Police, Te
Puni Kōrkiri, and Child, Youth and Family at the table.
We’re going to be working with Judge Becroft and the Independent Advisory Group, and with the wider youth justice sector.
we’re not going to muck around – I’ve made very clear that I want to be
able to present proposals to Cabinet early next year.
action plan needs to take into account all the work I’ve outlined to you
this morning, no matter what agency it’s being done by.
While we’re in the early stages, I want to touch on a couple of areas of focus which this will address.
The first area is how we get young people out of the youth justice system.
And once they’re out, how do we keep them out.
There is already considerable work going on which will help reduce the in-flow to the youth justice system.
We know that’s where some of the biggest gains can be made, dealing with risk factors before young people ever offend.
are four other better public service result areas will have a direct
impact on the youth justice sector through better outcomes for youth
- Increasing participation in early childhood education;
- Increasing infant immunisation rates and reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever;
- Reducing the number of assaults on children; and
- Increasing the proportion of 18 year olds with NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification.
So rather than repeat work already being done, we’re going to focus on what we do with young people once they’re in the system.
matter how good we get with early interventions, or with the big
leavers like health and education, some kids are always going to end up
in the system.
We need to do better with how we get them out of the system once they’re there.
And once they’re out, we need to keep them out.
area I’m particularly interested in looking at is how we deal with
young people once they’re released from youth justice residences, or
after they complete their youth justice orders.
No matter how effective we make our youth justice responses, they’re not a one-shot solution.
can’t just pick a kid up out of the muck, clean them up, and send them
straight back where they came from, and expect they’ll be fine.
Having invested so much in turning these kids around, we need to make sure they stay turned around.
there is some good work being done here, but I think we can make some
real improvements, and see some real gains from it.
A second area this work will need to confront is Māori overrepresentation in youth offending.
The statistical reality of youth offending is that there are far too many young Māori in our youth justice system.
While the youth crime rate has been falling overall, for young Māori it has remained constant.
That means they’re even more over-represented now than they used to be.
2011, young Māori were prosecuted at a rate more than five times that
for young Pākehā, and 2.7 times more than young Pacific people.
Young Māori make up nearly half of those transferred from the Youth Court to the adult justice system.
With the Māori youth population predicted to grow faster than general population growth, this problem is only going to increase.
This is an area I think is too prone to simplistic solutions.
too easy to just blame the Police for picking on young Māori. That’s
neither helpful nor, in my opinion, particularly true.
I’m pleased to have the support of the Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, in this part of our work.
SERVICE DELIVERY AND GOVERNANCE
The third area I want to touch today is about how agencies work together.
We have a range of interventions available to deal with young offenders.
well as looking at some of those interventions individually, as I’ve
already touched on, we need to look again though at how these fit
We need to make sure that both individually and
collectively, these interventions and services are delivering the best
I know that ‘Governance’ of youth justice services has been a perennial problem.
It’s one that people, including Ministers, have vowed to fix a number of times before.
It’s a pretty tough nut to crack, but I’m going to take another shot at it.
while ideas like governance and how agencies work together might seem
far removed from the reality on the ground, they do matter.
we have the systems and structures in place at the top to support those
at the coal-face, they’re never going to be able to deliver the results
The work around Youth Offending Teams is a great example of this, and I intend for it to be a key part of our action plan.
So that is a quick glance of what we’re doing.
It’s a big project, with a lot of other workstreams around it.
It includes some issues that Government has tried and failed to address many times before.
It’s a project I won’t be able to deliver on my own.
grateful for the support of my fellow Ministers, Judith Collins, Paula
Bennett, Anne Tolley, and Dr Pita Sharples, in helping me bring the full
range of youth justice agencies together.
I’m also aware from the outset that input from the wider youth justice community is going to be essential.
I look forward to working with the Independent Advisory Group, and the wider sector.
Together, I’m sure we can deliver something which makes a real difference to youth justice in New Zealand.