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From Little Things, Big Things Grow: Emerging Youth Justice Themes in the South Pacific

NCJ Number
Andrew Becroft
Date Published
May 2013
51 pages

This paper presented at the Australasian Youth Justice Conference on Changing Trajectories of Offending and Reoffending discusses emerging youth justice themes in the South Pacific, with a focus on New Zealand.


Ten emerging themes and trends in youth justice are discussed. One theme is the growing recognition of the relevance of "brain science," specifically how brain development affects behaviors at various stages of maturation. A second theme addressed is the increasing emphasis on community-based diversionary interventions as an alternative to formal charging and processing in the justice system. A third theme is the challenge posed by disproportionate rates of offending by Indigenous youth. A fourth theme is the challenge of addressing violence by young female offenders and the increase in their offending rates. A fifth theme is the use of a restorative justice model, which can involve the transfer of dispositional authority from the formal court system to community-based family group conferencing. A sixth theme is the rise of lay/community advocates into the youth justice process and the youth court in particular. Another theme is the developing understanding of neurobiological difficulties and their significance for how related problem behaviors are managed for affected youth. The eighth theme pertains to the growing view that research can determine what does and does not work in the management of juvenile behavior. The ninth theme considered is the apparently intractable dilemma for youth justice regarding the integration of justice with care and protection. A final theme addressed is the growing recognition of the importance of participation in education. A major section of the paper deals with an emerging theme, i.e., the cross-pollination of ideas and innovations from the youth court into the adult courts.