Youth Justice and Child Safety


Emphasising community-led approaches and empowerment of First Nations peoples, our stance focuses on safeguarding children and youth justice reform.


The Greens NSW believe that:

1. Prisons, adult courts and police cells are no place for a child. Contact with the criminal legal system at any level causes harm to the health and well-being of children and young people.

2. Young people must be diverted from the court and youth detention systems to alternative and appropriate services.

3. Deprivation of liberty must be the absolute last resort for children and young people in crisis and must occur in therapeutic, multidisciplinary, culturally safe environments focused on care, support and healing rather than punishment and control.

4. Families, extended families and kinship groups (where appropriate) should be recognised as a major influence upon young people and should be given support and opportunities to participate in youth justice and child safety processes.

5. The mass incarceration and forced removal of First Nations children and young people cannot be disconnected from the legacy of colonisation, dispossession and the Stolen Generations.

6. The NSW youth justice and child safety systems are institutionally racist and violent, and require systemic change.

7. First Nations Peoples have the fundamental right to self-determination, including being the primary decision-makers about the care, discipline, support and safety of their First Nations children. The NSW government must transfer decision-making power, authority, control and resources in the youth justice and child safety systems to First Peoples.

8. Due to the high levels of trauma among children and young people who come into contact with the youth justice and child safety systems, all support should be trauma-informed and responsive to their rights and unique cultural and individual needs.

9. The youth justice and child safety systems should be informed by an understanding of the complex ways in which multiple aspects of disadvantage and oppression intersect with and compound each other.

10. Justice for children and young people is unattainable without addressing the social determinants of health and justice, especially poverty and disadvantage, necessitating the reform of the child safety, education, health, disability support and housing systems.

11. Governments must significantly invest in public services, Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations and other community-based organisations to create a robust service system to support children, young people and families in crisis.

12. Engagement with support services should be consensual and free at the point of use.

13. Children and young people have the right to participate in decision-making throughout all steps in youth justice and child safety policymaking and their own case plans.

14. The privacy and autonomy of young people must be respected.

15. Youth justice and child safety processes and outcomes should be monitored by appropriate independent accountability mechanisms.

16. Punitive law and order approaches such as anti-protest laws, move-on laws, systematic strip searches, regulation of public space and sniffer dogs actively criminalise and discriminate against children and young people.

17. Police and security forces are not appropriate first responders to children and young people in crisis.

18. All children subject to justice procedures should be provided with support to allow them to communicate in their preferred language, including Auslan and Braille.

19. Discrimination in the youth justice, child safety, and out-of-home care systems need to be eliminated and everyone involved should be treated equitably.

20. Early intervention services that help children to live safely with their families reduce the avoidable use of the child safety system.

21. The child safety system needs to be well-resourced and culturally appropriate.

22. The child safety system should be operated by the public sector, with culturally appropriate exceptions. Religious organisations and organisations that seek to make a profit must be excluded from the delivery of child safety and out-of-home care services.

23. Young people subject to care and safety matters must be separated from the youth justice system.


The Greens NSW will work towards:

Youth Justice

24. Implementing justice reinvestment principles, redirecting resources spent on policing and prisons towards community-led measures that prevent crime and reduce contact with the justice system in the first place.

25. Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 16 and the minimum age of detention to 18.

26. Extinguishment of criminal records for offences committed under the age of criminal responsibility.

27. Establishing multidisciplinary panels to respond to children and young people in crisis or at risk of reaching crisis point in an individualised, therapeutic and needs-based framework, without the threat of coercion, detention or forced removal.

28. Encouraging and supporting communities to develop meaningful first responder alternatives, such as proactive outreach youth workers, community health workers and night patrols.

29. Whole-of-government reform to reduce youth involvement with the criminal legal system, including in child safety, education, health, housing, disability and mental health support.

30. Closing youth detention centres and ensuring alternative environments where children and young people are accommodated for their safety are therapeutic, trauma-informed and culturally appropriate.

31. Ensuring that while youth detention centres still exist, they have: 
31.1. Appropriate programs and services which enhance the well-being of young people;     
31.2. Adequate programs and services designed to educate, rehabilitate and upskill young people.

32. Supporting increased funding for mural painting and public art to prevent young people entering the justice system on graffiti offences.

33. A law prohibiting solitary confinement of children and young people.

34. A law prohibiting all strip searching of young people. 

35. A legislated ban on the use of mechanical restraints against children and young people.

36. Increased restrictions on police powers to detain, surveil, restrain, search, and use force against children and young people.

37. Legislating a ban on the use of preventive legal measures due to criminal offences committed when a person was below the age of eighteen.

38. Imposing a presumption in favour of bail.

39. Legislating a set of specific bail and sentencing principles for young people.

40. Removing all bail accommodation requirements and ensuring adequate funding for specialist homelessness services providing supported crisis and transitional accommodation for children and young people.

41. Developing new police and youth detention oversight processes and complaints pathways that are accessible, culturally appropriate and safe, and designed and resourced to provide genuine accountability.

42. Providing equitable access to appropriately trained and government-funded youth advocates and legal representatives to young people as they progress through the legal system. This should include adequately funding the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Legal Aid and community legal centres to meet needs and geographic spread.

43. Children and young people should be able to access appropriate and high-quality support regardless of location. Services should be place-based and responsive to the needs and priorities of their local communities.

44. Repealing laws and policies that impinge on children and young people’s human rights and civil liberties and which are used to harass and intimidate young people.

45. Ensuring the community is accurately informed of the facts relating to youth crime and justice.

46. Ensuring that security organisations dealing with young people in privately owned spaces used for public purposes such as shopping centres are not given the power to enforce criminal laws.

47. All personnel working in the youth justice system being thoroughly vetted and participating in ongoing training to ensure their appropriateness for working with children.

48. Ensuring there is adequate remuneration and employment conditions for suitably qualified youth justice workers.

49. Ensuring that all young people who are charged with a criminal offence are brought before the Children’s Court, or if impossible, a Magistrate who has been specially trained to sit in the Children’s Court.

50. Ensuring that the NSW Children's Court is adequately funded and has a sufficient number of specifically trained Children's Court judges.

51. Ensuring compliance with international human rights law in the youth justice system, including by incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into NSW law.

52. Full implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture to ensure oversight of all places of detention of children and young people.

53. Ensuring that complaints against staff and contractors employed in youth justice systems are dealt with in a timely manner with a focus on the safety of the child.

54. Robust, culturally safe systems being developed and implemented for identifying and supporting children and young people with disability pre-crisis or when in contact with the legal system. Particular attention to be paid to neurodiverse and hard-of-hearing or deaf youth.

55. Investing public funds to remove the social determinants of youth crime including public housing, public health (including mental health and dental care) and adequate income support for families and careers.

56. Seeking to constantly improve the familial and social environment that children live in through increased investment in programs and services such as family support, education, health and substance use treatment.

57. Seeking to design and implement a wide range of diversionary programs and services that must be utilised prior to a child being subject to youth justice processes.

First Nations Children in the Justice and Child Safety Systems

58. Ending the forced removal of First Nations children from their families and communities.

59. Ensuring that First Nations people have decision-making power and control over:
59.1. youth justice system and child safety system design;
59.2. allocation of resources;
59.3. the composition and powers of youth justice institutions;
59.4. accountability and oversight functions.

60. Ensuring Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations and families are empowered and resourced to make decisions about the care and safety of First Nations children.

61. Increased funding and support for Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations to provide alternative , culturally responsive and community-led pathways for First Nations children, young people and their families in crisis and/or conflict with the law.

62. Ensuring First Nations People's authority and ownership over all aspects of youth justice and child safety data, consistent with the principles of Indigenous Data Sovereignty.

63. Systemic reform of the child safety system to eliminate racial discrimination and ensure First Nations children's right to be raised in their culture and connected to their family and community is upheld.

64. Staff and policymakers at all levels of youth justice and child safety. receiving a robust education in cultural competence, anti-racism and principles of First Nations self-determination.

65. Staff and policymakers at all levels of the youth justice and child safety systems developing and implementing best practice methods to improve youth justice processes and improve cultural safety, in genuine partnership with First Nations communities and organisations.

66. The full implementation of the Family is Culture report which is an Independent Review into First Nations Children and Young People in Out of Home Care in NSW.

Child Safety

67. A non-punitive approach to banning corporal punishment of children.

68. Abolishing government policies and procedures that increase the risk of children involved with the child safety system becoming involved with the youth justice system.

69. Ensuring there are barriers to information-sharing between child safety services and police to reduce the risk of criminalising children.

70. Ending the threat of child removal experienced by victim-survivors of domestic and family violence seeking support.

71. Significantly increasing funding to child safety services so they can effectively deal with child abuse, neglect and exploitation.

72. Increasing resources to programs and services which are likely to prevent child abuse and neglect in the first place, such as:
72.1. early intervention;
72.2. respite care;
72.3. child care;
72.4. family counselling;
72.5. home visiting programs;
72.6. poverty relief, including direct cash transfers;
72.7. alcohol and other drug treatment services;
72.8. Specialist Homelessness Services and public housing;

73. Increasing funding for out-of-home care services.

74. Prohibiting adoption and foster care services from discriminating, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

75. Supporting the development and funding of competency-based training programs for foster carers.

76. Setting foster care payments at a level ensuring the reasonable care and comfort of the child and making sure the payments are easier to access.

77. Increasing funding for services that exist to provide support for people who leave out-of-home care.

78. Supporting increased employment, education and training assistance for children and young people in or leaving out-of-home care.

79. Closing remaining institutionalised residences for children with disabilities and transferring them to community-based, family-like environments.

80. Ensuring that when a child is placed in a kinship care arrangement as a result of a child safety intervention, kinship carers have the same financial entitlement as non-kinship carers.

Explanatory Note:

Due to the negative community connotations around “child protection services”, especially for First Nations people, this policy refers to all systems aimed at intervening in the family lives of children as relating to “child safety”.

Last Revised April 2024