Source: (2006) In, John Muncie and Barry Goldson, eds., Comparative Youth Justice, London: Sage Publications. PP. 96-110.

This chapter presents a critical analysis of recent juvenile justice reforms in Australia. The main argument is that while the Australian Government espouses the rhetoric of restorative justice practices, reforms instituted in recent years have further marginalized disadvantaged youth. The authors begin by reviewing recent legislative changes that have enhanced the power of police to control young people in public spaces. These changes have expanded the ability of police to conduct casual “name-checks,” searches for prohibited implements, and to take fingerprints and bodily samples of alleged young offenders. This “zero tolerance” policing have been coupled with other control measures designed to contain young people in public spaces, such as formal youth curfews and restrictive approaches to bail. These legislative changes have accompanied an increased emphasis on the prediction and management of risk for young people in Australia, which has resulted in the expanded use of diversionary sanctions. The problem with such an approach, however, is that in practice this risk management has focused mainly on disadvantaged youth who do not fit the typical middle-class mold. The authors discuss the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in the juvenile justice system before turning to an examination of the tensions created between the rhetoric of restorative justice practices and the “net-widening” effect that has occurred as a result of risk management practices that criminalize a greater array of activities. While on the one hand, the Australian Government has expanded the use of so-called restorative sanctioning practices, the focus on risk management has changed the nature of juvenile incarceration. Even as the rate of juvenile incarceration has decreased across the country, it has become increasingly easier to transfer young offenders to adult courts and to hold young offenders in detention facilities administered by the adult correctional system. In closing the authors note that in Australia, the term “juvenile offender” is a code word for “poor and marginalized.” (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,