The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia’s (ALSWA) Youth Engagement Program: Addressing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the Western Australian justice system through the provision of culturally competent, holistic, individualised, flexible and practical support to Aboriginal children in the Perth metropolitan area.

Ms Victoria Williams1, Ms  Sasha  Greenoff1

1Aboriginal Legal Service Of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are one of the most imprisoned groups in the world. WA has the highest rate of overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia, constituting 70% of the youth detention population. Responding to this crisis and using its knowledge from working with Aboriginal children in the justice system, the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) developed the Youth Engagement Program (YEP). YEP commenced in May 2016 and it provides culturally competent, holistic, individualised and flexible support including case management, mentoring, court support, advocacy, referrals to external programs and services (eg, educational/training programs; accommodation; counselling; health services; and recreational programs) and practical assistance (eg, transport; school uniforms/supplies; and help with obtaining birth certificates, Centrelink payments and bank accounts). To date, YEP has supported 119 young people. YEP employs three Aboriginal diversion officers who are each positive Aboriginal role models. The diversion officers help young people comply with the requirements of their court orders to reduce further entrenchment in the justice system and provide support to enable young people to reengage in education and participate in therapeutic programs. Significant outcomes have been achieved in terms of compliance with bail and court orders and reengagement in education and other pro-social activities. The presentation will provide an overview of the development and operation of YEP from the perspective of its project manager and one of the program’s Aboriginal diversion officers including case examples to demonstrate how and why the program is achieving success.


Sasha Greenoff is a Jaru and Jawoyn woman from Darwin in the NT. She has worked in various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services including as a Senior Paralegal in Criminal Law. Sasha has also worked with AIME as a mentor and is currently studying a Bachelor of Applied Science (Indigenous Professional) at Curtin University. Sasha has been employed as a diversion officer with the Youth Engagement Program at ALSWA since March 2017 and works tirelessly and passionately for Aboriginal young people. She also undertakes casual work with We-Ali as a cultural support facilitator conducting integrated trauma and healing approach workshops.

Victoria Williams is Barrister and Solicitor with over 23 years’ experience in criminal law, law reform and policy. Victoria worked at ALSWA in the Criminal Unit between 1995 and 2001. In 2002 Victoria completed a Master of Laws (Distinction), specialising in criminal justice issues, from the University of Western Australia. After 2001, she worked extensively with the Law Reform Commission of WA authoring various reports including reports on Aboriginal customary laws, court intervention programs, and family violence. Victoria has been employed by ALSWA since June 2014 and the Project Manager for the Youth Engagement Program.