The state's first ever Koori Youth Justice Inquiry has kicked off in the south-west.
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Justin Mohamed visited Warrnambool and Portland for the first leg of the Victorian inquiry on Wednesday and Framlingham on Thursday.
"There's two parts to what we're doing: 12 months ago it was announced there was going to be a task force, together with the Department of Justice, into Koori youth justice focusing on young people in Victoria from 10 to 18 years old who are in the youth justice system," Commissioner Mohamed said.
"The other part of what we're doing is part of our trip down here, which is our inquiry called 'Our Youth Our Way', which will allow us to speak to a whole range of different people - Aboriginal organisations, service providers, young people themselves, individual workers and community members - around youth justice.
"This process will take us about four months and this is the first community we've come to."
The task force will go to 13 different regions across the state over the four-month inquiry process.
Commissioner Mohamed said the south-west region had the lowest levels of Aboriginal youth representation in the justice system in Victoria.
To determine numbers, the task force conducted a six-month census from October 1, 2018, to March 31 of Aboriginal people under the statutory division of youth justice, and found only six in Warrnambool.
That includes youth on a diversion order, supervised bail, any supervisory order or serving a sentence.
Warrnambool's progressive Koori Court system has contributed to the region's low indigenous crime rate, according to Victoria's deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic.
"This area has a low number of young people in the justice system compared to other areas, in Warrnambool there was only six," Commissioner Mohamed said.
"We want to find out what's working and not working in regions, and this region is one of the areas which does look like things are working out as the statistics are very low," he said.
"A lot of our focus is on the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the youth and adult justice systems.
"A number of young people find themselves back in the justice system, so we're looking at before the contact with the system, during the justice process and what happens at the end when they leave the justice system.
"We want to reduce the number of re-offending."
The inquiry will finish in November and the findings will be tabled to parliament early next year.
"This is not about a broad brush state-wide approach, we will be giving feedback to different regions," Commissioner Mohamed said.
"This is the first commission into Koori youth justice and has come out of the increase that we've seen of Aboriginal people in the youth justice system."
'Our Youth Our Way' reflects the commission's focus on the voices of young people.
"Hearing the voice of young people is really important so we are making special spaces and making sure young people are really well represented," the commissioner said.
"They live this, and if they aren't part of the youth justice system they will likely know someone within their extended family or friends who are.
"We need to find out what keeps them strong and resilient, and what are the barriers they face and hopefully incorporate that into our recommendations."
The project has been funded in the state government's 2019-20 budget.
Recommendations for the task force came out of the 2016 State Justice Review by Penny Armytage, former Secretary of the Department of Justice and Regulation, and Professor James Ogloff AM, Director of the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science at Swinburne University.
The commission will be back in Warrnambool July 1 for a regional forum.
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