Accreditation pathway for youth lawyers in Queensland: What we know so far.

Mr David Law1, Mr Dylan Roberts1

1Legal Aid Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Recommendation 25.31 of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was that:

All legal practitioners appearing in a youth court be accredited as specialist youth justice lawyers after training in youth justice to include child and adolescent development, trauma, adolescent mental health, cognitive and communication deficits and Aboriginal cultural competence.

Recently there has been considerable change in the Queensland youth justice system. This includes the return of restorative justice as a sentencing outcome and an increase in the identification of  intellectual disability in the client cohort.   In December 2018, Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) commenced work on a new initiative to accredit youth lawyers who represent young people across the state to ensure better and more just outcomes for children charged with offences.

The project aims to enhance the skills of lawyers providing legal services to young people and create a greater understanding of the knowledge required to work with vulnerable youth. Both in-house LAQ lawyers and preferred suppliers will be required to complete the training pathway before holding juvenile files. Given the unavailability of any similar program within Australian jurisdictions, research has focused on the interface between juvenile justice and the legal profession at a national and international level. Preliminary findings and consultations within the criminal justice system suggest prospective topics of: working with neurodevelopmental deficits; developmental psychology; cultural capability; and associated legal components. Once pathway content has been finalised, LAQ plans to roll out training in the second half of 2019.


David is currently  the Assistant Director of Youth Legal Aid Queensland. He was admitted to the bar  in 1997 and has practised exclusively in youth justice  for the past ten years. He is the author of the Youth Justice Practitioners Guide , The Queensland Law Handbook chapter on children in the criminal  justice system and the Youth Justice module of Lexis Nexis’s Practical Guidance product. David is also an accredited trainer for the Australian Advocacy Institute.