CHAPTER TWO - The Ideals of Juvenile Justice  pp. 19-26

The Ideals of Juvenile Justice

By Fay Gale, Rebecca Bailey-Harris and Joy Wundersitz

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Juvenile justice systems differ widely throughout the Western world, and even within Australia itself. In fact, Australia possesses no less than eight different systems of juvenile justice, with each State and Territory having its own legislation. Differences are not matters merely of procedural or institutional detail, but reflect differing concepts — for instance, the characterisation of a juvenile offence as a crime or a symptom of social dysfunction, or the relationship between punishment and rehabilitation. Yet despite their differences, most modern juvenile justice systems display a common characteristic: a far greater emphasis on rehabilitation of the individual offender than pertains in the criminal justice system as it is applied to adults. One aim of this book is to assess how young Aborigines fare in this system in which the State's intervention is intended to reduce the likelihood of an individual's re-offending. This chapter outlines the ideals of a juvenile justice system, in order to measure against them the realities of outcome for young Aborigines. South Australia provides an ideal location for such a case study since, as has often been observed, this State ‘has long had a reputation as an innovator in its provisions for young offenders’ (Nichols, 1985: 222).

Over many years South Australia has sought to improve justice for juveniles. In doing so it has not merely reformulated the details of legislation, but has also reassessed the entire conceptual framework upon which the operation of the system rests.