Needs or deeds? Child protection and youth justice in the Australian Capital Territory
This paper reports on research conducted as part of a national study on the views of judicial officers and other stakeholders in Australia's Children's Courts. It focuses on the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and in particular the way in which care and protection matters are dealt with separately from youth justice matters. Many research participants advocated alternatives which were less formal and more focused on the needs of children and young people. Frequent positive references were made to the Scottish Children's Hearing system: a non-judicial diversionary system in which children and young people are treated on the basis of 'needs and not deeds', in which the welfare of young people who offend is prioritised. Using the Scottish model as a counterpoint to that of the ACT, the paper outlines the main features of the ACT system, and what informants thought were the key philosophical and practical challenges facing the Court. The universal dilemma of how to balance the welfare of young people with a justice agenda is highlighted by the differing arrangements in these jurisdictions.