Melbourne Children’s Court

The Education Justice Initiative, Melbourne Children’s Court | Parkville College

In June 2014, Parkville College commenced the Education Justice Initiative (EJI), based at the Melbourne Children’s Court.

The EJI is a collaborative partnership between the Department of Education and Training (DET) and the Melbourne Children’s Court, managed by Parkville College. The aim of EJI is to connect young people appearing before the courts to an appropriate, supported education pathway through liaison and advocacy with schools, alternative settings and training providers. The Parkville College EJI staff focus on engaging with young people and their families, providing relevant support services.

The Melbourne Children’s Court of Victoria is a specialist court with two divisions dealing with cases involving children and young people, including the Family Division and the Criminal Division. The Children’s Court of Victoria has jurisdiction to hear and determine charges against young people aged between 10 and 17 years at the time of committing an alleged offence.

The Melbourne Children’s Koori Court Criminal Division hears all matters relating to criminal offending by Koori children and young persons, excluding sexual offences.

The Education Justice Initiative was established in response to the high level of school disengagement of young people appearing in the Criminal Division at the Melbourne Children’s Court of Victoria. Research shows that almost one-third of the children appearing at the Melbourne Children’s Court are not formally enrolled in any education setting, with many more enrolled but attending school frequently. We aim to disrupt the all too common pattern of children and young people remaining out of education, training or employment and experiencing repeated contact with the justice system throughout their lives.

We believe supporting these young people to re-engage with their education is critical both for the opportunities it gives them to develop the necessary skills for work, and to ensure a successful transition into adulthood. The Department of Education and Training has a range of policies and programs aimed at supporting children who are disengaged or are at risk of disengaging from school, but unfortunately these valuable options do not always connect with those children and young people most in need of intervention.

How the Education Justice Initiative works:

The Parkville College staff based at the Melbourne Children’s Court, engage with young people through one of several channels: through direct outreach at the Children’s Court, or referral from Youth Justice workers (including the Youth Justice Court Advice Service), Legal Aid, private lawyers at the court, the Koori Court Officer or one of the Magistrates presiding at the court.

The location of the Parkville College EJI staff at the Children’s Court means our staff have immediate contact with young people and families on their day at court, highlighting the importance of education and helping to embed education as a critical consideration in the court process.

Upon identifying a young person appearing in court who is not in education, we:

-Speak with the young person about their education history, experiences of school, willingness to engage in education and preferences for school or other setting. In most instances this contact will take place at the court, but in some cases EJI staff will visit a young person remanded at Parkville Youth Justice Precinct.

-Gather information from relevant parties, regarding the circumstances of the young person’s disengagement from school, options for returning to previous school, and existing plans to support re-engagement.

-Investigate available options for individual young people and support them to access these options through arranging meetings, liaising and advocating with education providers, and consulting with Department of Education staff as required.

-Provide information and advice to the court and relevant services, regarding possible education or training options for individual young people.

-Seek advice from education settings on the engagement and progress of a young people who have been referred by Education Justice Initiative.

‘Disengagement from school, truancy, early leaving and expulsion are common factors contributing to youths offending’ Victorian Parliament 2009.

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