By Alesha Capone
Several organisations have come together with a plan to end “youth criminalisation” in Brimbank and two other municipalities.
The 10-year pilot program, TARGET ZER0, aims to cut the number of children and young people involved in the justice system, especially those from indigenous and culturally-diverse backgrounds, and those who live in residential care.
The TARGET ZER0 alliance includes Victoria University, the Centre for Multicultural Youth, WEstjustice, Jesuit Social Services, Anglicare and the Western Metropolitan Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee.
The pilot program, which is yet to receive any government funding, will work to address the reasons why youth end up in the justice system, including poverty, racism, trauma, domestic violence and substance abuse.
Targeted programs co-designed with community will empower young people and their families to break the cycle of arrests, charges, convictions and incarcerations that can permanently taint the lives of young people as part of the program.
VU senior lecturer in youth work, Dr Karen Hart, said the pilot aimed to work with the boarder community “to eradicate disadvantage in the early years in order to prevent children and young people’s involvement in the youth justice system”.
“The TARGET ZER0 initiative highlights the need and offers a solution to do something different from what we’ve been doing within our communities in the west,” Dr Hart said.
“Combined effort means that we need a whole of community commitment from not-for-profit organisations, our local councils, the police, our health, welfare, education and justice systems, the out-of-home-care and child protection system, all working together to create referral pathways that lead to improved developmental opportunities for children and young people in Melbourne’s west.
“It is intentionally ambitious to draw together the collective parts, because that has not been achieved in Melbourne’s west and there are few if any examples of this type of initiative working elsewhere.”
Dr Hart said that while Wyndham, Brimbank and Melton have “the most need in terms of disadvantage” when it comes to helping young people, the three areas also have a variety of diverse services available to youth.