Finding solutions for youth justice systems across Australia: International perspectives, local applications

Julie Edwards, CEO, Jesuit Social Services

Youth justice is at a crossroads in Australia. In every state and territory across the nation, Governments are grappling with youth justice issues as they seek to reduce crime, improve community safety and respond to public concern that is being fanned by sensationalised media coverage.

In order to inform discussions around youth justice in Australia, Jesuit Social Services has looked beyond Australia’s shores for solutions. Senior leaders of our organisation have embarked on a series of international #JusticeSolutions study tours, taking in parts of Norway, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States (2017), as well as New Zealand (2019). We visited courts, detention facilities and diversion programs and talked with their managers and staff. We also met with senior justice personnel, non-profit service providers, academics and youth justice advocates.

In her keynote presentation, Julie Edwards will set the scene for youth justice in Australia and offer learnings from our #JusticeSolutions tours, detailing overseas successes as they relate to prevention and diversion, assessment, detention, transition and reintegration, education, workforce capability, social infrastructure and evidence-based policy.

Based on the learnings from our international tours, as well as more than 40 years’ experience working in justice, we propose the key principles for a good youth justice system that should be adopted and put into action by stakeholders and governments across Australia.

Julie’s presentation will also outline Jesuit Social Services’ approach to galvanising public support for an evidence-based approach to address youth crime. During our #JusticeSolutions tours the important role that communities can play in driving advocacy was a critical learning. We are now building on this to promote a clear and positive vision through an evidence-based, fully-integrated, youth justice advocacy campaign – #WorthASecondChance (


Julie Edwards joined Jesuit Social Services in 2001. She was the Program Director prior to her appointment as CEO in June 2004. Julie has over 35 years experience engaging with marginalised people and families experiencing breakdown and trauma. She is a social worker, family therapist and a grief and loss counsellor. Julie has a Masters in Social Work and is currently completing her doctorate in this discipline. In January 2010 Julie became a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Julie has served on a number of government and philanthropic committees that work to promote a more just society and contribute to the health and wellbeing of members of our community. She is also a member of the International Working Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement.

Julie is a member of a number of national and international Jesuit commissions and working groups across areas of justice, education, social ministry, ecology and is the leader of the global Ignatian Justice in Mining network.

Julie is passionate about finding ways to give practical expression to her social justice values, about exploring the most effective means to build a more just society and promoting a values-based model of leadership.