A multi-disciplinary allied health approach to youth justice services in South Australia.

Mr Luke Francis1, Ms Amanda  White2

1Youth Justice, Adelaide, Australia, 2Youth Justice, Adelaide , Australia

Young people in contact with the Youth Justice system typically exhibit needs related to offending behaviour including emotional dysregulation, antisocial attitudes and peers, substance abuse, poor educational attainment and mental health difficulties at rates disproportionate to the wider population. These needs have traditionally been addressed within Youth Justice service systems. However, emerging research fields suggest an additional prevalence of needs related to speech and language disorders, functional cognition and sensory processing – areas more commonly addressed by Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists.

Youth Justice (SA) has commenced a pilot project to investigate the impacts of a multidisciplinary Allied Health approach in identifying and addressing the needs of young people in contact with Youth Justice services through the creation of a multi-disciplinary service which includes Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy and Psychology.

The pilot project includes a multi-disciplinary population screening process to investigate the prevalence of intrinsic, extrinsic and functional needs among the Youth Justice population. Screening data will be analysed alongside collated demographic and criminogenic information. The outcomes of the screening assessments and analysis will inform service development, staff education and further strategic initiatives.

The proposed presentation will discuss the following key themes:

  • The pilot project structure, aims and objectives;
  • The population screening process;
  • The potential impacts of a transition to a multi-disciplinary approach to assessment and intervention;
  • The discipline-specific roles in contributing to better outcomes for young people and staff within Youth Justice; and
  • Potential future projects within a multi-disciplinary Youth Justice model.


Luke is an Occupational Therapist with professional experience in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Prior to working within a Youth Justice context, Luke specialised in helping clients regain independence after suffering traumatic brain injuries. While working as a Consultant in Winnipeg, Canada, Luke developed a program to build functional life skills among a small cohort of young people serving long-term sentences for violent crimes; an experience that changed the trajectory of his career. In the years since returning home to South Australia he completed an Honours in Criminal Justice and has commenced a PhD in Criminology at Flinders University to research the role(s) for occupational therapy in Youth Justice.

Amanda is a Registered Psychologist and her current role is the Deputy Principal Psychologist within Youth Justice, South Australia, which she joined in 2014 after a decade working with adult offenders. She has a background in forensic psychology and has worked in a variety of clinical, forensic and organisational settings, with both adults and adolescents. She has worked with mentally disordered offenders and individuals diagnosed with personality disorder. Her work within the forensic field has included direct assessment, individual and group treatment, training and consultancy within correctional institutions and community contexts.