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Crime, Youth


WCMT & UQ 3 mins read

A Churchill Fellow from Queensland has called for a rethink when it comes to youth detention, including more integrated ‘leaves of absence’ as current models are not reducing the risk of reoffending. 


Churchill Fellow, Kate Bjur has called on governments to learn from the shared decision models from around the world to reduce the chances of a young Australian reoffending. 


Ms Bjur believes allowing young people in youth detention to reconnect with community by engaging in education, employment, and time with their families, increases the chances of successful reintegration with less offending once released. 


Having a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders consider applications for leaves of absence will allow un-sentenced young people to prepare for successful re-entry back to their communities, reducing the risk of reoffending, Ms Bjur wrote in her research report Reconnecting young people with their communities to reduce reoffending after release from youth detention. 


The article is jointly presented by The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The University of Queensland, as part of their partnership to develop the flagship publication Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda. This publication features succinct and timely policy articles written by Churchill Fellows and will be released at the Churchill Policy Room event at Australian Parliament House on 27 June.  


Stakeholders who could consider the applications include: 


  • Magistrates 
  • Victims of crime and their representatives 
  • Police 
  • Aboriginal/and or Torres Strait Islander and other cultural community leaders 
  • The young person and their family 
  • Organisations involved in the proposed reintegration activities, e.g. employers, schools 
  • Relevant youth justice services 


The Churchill Policy Room event is part of the Policy Impact Program, the partnership between the University of Queensland and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to showcase the research and recommendations of Churchill Fellows working in policy reform. 


Kate Bjur was awarded her Churchill Fellowship in 2022. The Donald Mackay sponsored Fellowship to investigate effective responses to youth gangs for use in youth detention centres, took her to Canada, Denmark, Spain, the UK and USA. Kate has more than 25 years’ experience working with, and on behalf of young children in Japan, Canada, England, and Australia. Her experience includes youth detention senior leadership, restorative justice, and youth justice strategy. 


Quotes attributable to Kate Bjur 


“Successful models in other parts of the world include young people leaving detention centres on short ‘leaves of absence’ to reintegrate into their communities before release.  


 "Currently, leaves of absence are usually only provided to the small percentage of young people in Australia who are sentenced for their offences.


“There’s a common community perception that young people who have offended should not be allowed in the community, and that constitutes a formidable barrier to a young person’s reintegration activities. 


“But the evidence shows the risk of young people reoffending or absconding while on leave is actually very low. 


"The statistics show that of the 5,080 young people leaving Australian detention centres unescorted by staff between 2018 and 2023, every one of them returned to the detention centre. 


“Allowing young people in detention the opportunity to engage in education, employment, and family reunification while they are supported by adults in a familiar environment, can significantly reduce the likelihood of reoffending. 


“The current system sees youth detention centres make the decision about leaves of absence on their own. A multi-disciplinary team of stakeholders is better equipped than an individual youth detention centre to decide when a young person’s individual risk level is lower than the potential reintegrative benefits of leaves of absence. 


For more information on the Fellows featured in Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda, visit

Contact details:

Media contact: Matt Neagle | 0408 207 256 |


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