Preventing crime and promoting rights for Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities and mental health issues


This report provides an investigation of early intervention and diversionary practices aimed at preventing offending behaviour in Indigenous young people with a cognitive disability and/or a mental health problem. Specifically, the report examines what is available for these young people, identifies systemic service delivery gaps and points to promising interventions that have the capacity to prevent offending behaviour as there is a lack of literature, evidence and interventions for this group of young people. Unfortunately what commonly comes to light are stories of young people with cognitive disabilities or mental health issues falling through the cracks of community social services and ending up in custody. Once in custody, young people with a disability are more vulnerable than other detainees. They can face additional difficulties in adapting to a custodial environment that is rarely able to meet their needs and they face ridicule and adverse attention by other detainees who do not understand their medical predicament. Since there is little research about Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities and/or mental health issues and how to practically keep this group of young people out of the juvenile justice system this is an exploratory, qualitative research project built on close review of the literature, consideration of existing service provision and targeted case studies and consultations. Following the introduction, part two provides a literature review which considers Australian and international research on the problems facing Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities or mental health issues, as well as different intervention models. Part three is based on consultations with community members and experts in the field. In some cases, these sorts of positive interventions are already occurring. A selection of case studies showing promising practice is also included in this section. Part four draws together best practice principles based on the consultations, case studies and literature, and provides targeted recommendations. In addition, appendix one provides a list of consultations, appendix two collates the data and responses on Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities/mental health problems provided by relevant government agencies, and appendix three provides a list of government respondents.

Copyright Information

Copyright © Australian Human Rights Commission 2008 This work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part may be reproduced without prior written permission from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission. Requests and inquiries concerning the reproduction of materials should be directed to the Executive Director, Australian Human Rights Commission, GPO Box 5218, Sydney, NSW, 2001. ISBN 978-1-921449-06-2 Preventing Crime and Promoting Rights for Indigenous Young People with Cognitive Disabilities and Mental Health Issues Australian Human Rights Commission, Sydney, March 2008 Report prepared by Emilie Priday We thank all of the stakeholders who generously gave their time and expertise to assist in this research project. Desktop Publishing by Jo Clark Printed by BlueStar Print Group