Funding boost for therapeutic court programs for young people

  • Funding extended for therapeutic court programs to divert young people from the criminal justice system and address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care
  • $8.2 million to continue and expand the In-Roads Court for young people facing criminal charges
  • $5.1 million for a two-year extension of the Dandjoo Bidi-Ak specialist court for families in care and protection proceedings

The Cook Labor Government has extended funding in this year’s budget for two important therapeutic court programs which aim to divert young people from the criminal justice system and address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.

In-Roads is a court-based therapeutic program being piloted in the Perth Children’s Court, providing an alternative to detention for young people who have pled guilty to criminal charges.

Introduced at the direction of the President of the Children’s Court in 2023, the program aims to address the underlying drivers of the offending behaviour and prevent reoffending.

The Government has committed $8.2 million to enable the In-Roads Court to continue for two years with a capacity of up to 25 participants per year.

The funding will also allow the program to be expanded to include the following additional therapeutic supports and interventions:

  • case managed health support to identify participants’ health, mental health and disability support needs via the Department of Health’s Health Navigator Pilot Program;
  • individualised supports for up to 12 months for participants and their families via the Department of Communities’ Target 120 Plus program; and
  • an additional Department of Education Principal Consultant at the Children’s Court to ensure access to an appropriate educational option and supports.

Participants will receive intensive support services including education support, health assessments and clinical interventions, as well as court-led case management and supervision to ensure community safety is maintained.

Successful completion of the program is taken into account when the young person is sentenced, and may result in a conditional release order or no further punishment.

The Government has also committed a further $5.1 million to fully fund Dandjoo Bidi-Ak at its existing capacity of 40 participating families, for a further two years while an evaluation of the program is completed.

Dandjoo Bidi-Ak is a specialist court in the Children’s Court of Western Australia designed to empower and support Aboriginal families taking part in care and protection proceedings.

The therapeutic court commenced as a pilot in 2020, with the Government committing $2.2 million in 2022 to fund the expansion of the court from two to five days per week for two years.

Cases are heard by a single Magistrate and conducted in a culturally safe and inclusive environment, designed to facilitate open communication between parties and encourage family reunification.

Early indications are that the program is achieving positive results for families involved in the program, with 40.2 per cent of cases having better outcomes than expected.

As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:

“The In-Roads program aims to reduce the number of young people sentenced to detention and improve community safety by reducing their risk of reoffending by addressing the social, environmental and health factors at the core of the offending behaviour.

“The expanded services provided to young people involved in In-Roads will intensively target the underlying drivers of offending behaviour, and support young people to modify the trajectory of their lives away from the criminal justice system.

“Through adopting a joined-up approach to supporting young people in the In-Roads program, the Departments of Communities, Education, Health and Justice will provide services that have a tangible impact on the lives of some of WA’s most vulnerable young people and their families.

“The Dandjoo Bidi-Ak court directly addresses the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, which is considered a key contributor to future contact with the criminal justice system and a range of long-term life impacts, such as suicidal behaviour.

“In-Roads and Dandjoo Bidi-Ak are both situated in a critical window of opportunity for children, young people, and their families, where intervention has the capacity to directly improve their long-term outcomes.”

/Public Release. View in full here.