Children as young as ten who are victims of family violence are often kept in police custody overnight as there are not the services to cater to them, according to one leading expert on criminology.
UNSW Professor Eileen Baldry made the remark as part of a Q+A style panel on young people and violence co-hosted by Marrickville Legal Centre and Gilbert + Tobin.
Moderated by ABC TV’s Ben Jenkins from The Checkout, the panel reported common themes including a lack of appropriate resources for young people, the importance of schools as being a way of stopping the cycle of violence and problems with the justice system.
Justice Elizabeth Fullerton of the Supreme Court said she had little faith in the punishment model being a deterrent.
“I am heartbroken and staggered by the number of juvenile offenders that have been refused bail all the way up to our Court,” she said, noting that young people who experience family violence frequently become offenders.
A young person who left a violent relationship was also on the panel, saying she had little awareness of healthy relationships before finding herself in danger.
“I grew up in out of home care,” said Naja, who is now a mother of a 13-month-old daughter.
“I grew up around them [unhealthy relationships] and you become them unintentionally,” she said. “There needs to be more awareness at school.”
School should also be a protective factor and “sanctuary” for children and young people experiencing violence, according to psychologist Beth Macgregor.
“We need teachers to be trauma informed, so that they can identify behaviours, such as aggression, and look at what might be at the root of the problem,” she said, adding that early intervention in children as young as two will save money and untold social harm.
The Advocate for Children and Young People noted that while violence is a major issue for young people, too often they think ‘domestic violence’ refers only to adults. Andrew Johnson says while school is important, “the rest of the community needs to stand up and say it’s wrong. [Young people] asked us to say ‘violence against us is not on’.”
Marrickville Legal Centre’s Domestic and Family Violence Support worker, Zoe McMillan spoke of the gap in resources which are appropriate for young people.
“Often a young person will ring me and say they need to leave immediately, but then it might take two weeks to find a refuge and six months to get payment through Centrelink,” said Ms McMillan.
The social worker suggests it's important to be responsive in the first instance to young people seeking help, otherwise they will lose trust in services and be reluctant to re-engage.
Here's how the event was covered by the ABC's AM Program
Find out more about Marrickville Legal Centre’s service for young people