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Young People: Change Attitude Towards Youth Offenders

Young People Call For Change In Public Attitude Towards Youth Offenders

A group of young people are appealing to the public to change their attitudes towards youth offenders.
JustSpeak, a community of young people who seek to encourage a new generation of debate around criminal justice issues with the aim of achieving a more just Aotearoa, held its first forum in Auckland last night on youth offending, with a large crowd coming to discuss the current issues in the way the criminal justice system deals with youth offenders. A major theme from the evening was the need for a shift in public attitude in the way young offenders are treated.

“The message young offenders are constantly fed through the media and wider public is that they are useless, hopeless and a lost cause. These negative messages provide no motivation to stop offending; it simply tells them they are capable of nothing better. For many of these young people, this is a message they have been fed their whole lives,” says Diane White, a member of JustSpeak.

JustSpeak calls on the public to stop feeding youth offenders these negative messages, and instead advocates for a more supportive and positive community-based approach to youth offending.

Last night’s forum featured Dr Ian Lambie, Director of Clinical Psychology Training at the University of Auckland and a member of the Ministry of Justice Youth Justice Independent Advisory Group; Fa’afete Taito, a University of Auckland student; Dr Julia Ioane, Clinical Psychologist at Safe Network Ltd who recently completed her thesis entitled “A Comparison of Pacific Island Violent Youth Offenders with Māori and Pālagi Violent Youth Offenders”; and Senior Sergeant Mike Fulcher, District Youth Services Co-ordinator, Counties Manukau Police District.

A common message from all four speakers was the need to build strong families and communities. The vast majority of young people who offend come from dysfunctional and abusive families. All four speakers commented on the need for a wider community approach, where families and individuals are well-supported and can provide a positive, nurturing environment for the upbringing of their children.

A change in public attitude towards youth offenders, and a more supportive, nurturing community would show young people who have not been brought up in a positive environment that there is hope, and that society believes they can succeed.
JustSpeak looks to continue its work in the area of youth offending with the upcoming review of the Youth Offending Strategy. JustSpeak is keen to see government engage with families and communities – especially those overrepresented in youth offending statistics – to see what those communities want, and what those communities think will work.
JustSpeak will hold its next forum on Thursday 13th September. Details to follow.


JustSpeak is a non-partisan network of young people who seek to encourage a new generation of debate around criminal justice issues with the aim of achieving a more just Aotearoa. The guiding ethos driving JustSpeak is that young people have much to offer to the national conversation on criminal justice: amongst other things, young people bring an imaginative outlook; a feeling of urgency; and a sense of hope.

The organisation was formed in Wellington at the beginning of 2011 as the youth arm of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. After attracting a strong following there, JustSpeak officially launched in the capital in April 2012 with the release of its position paper on Māori and the Criminal Justice system. Since then JustSpeak has gone on to make a number of submissions, including on the inquiry by the Māori Affairs Select Committee into the wellbeing of Māori children and the Vulnerable Children Green Paper; organised consultations so that young people can air their views, notably on the Victims Code with the Victims Centre; and held monthly forums.


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