Trauma Responsive Practice in Youth Justice

Using neurobiology to support effective responses in youth detention and community based youth justice practices.

What is this training about?


Justice – are we doing what we think we’re doing?

Youth justice systems across Australia are grappling with balancing their role in supporting young people with meeting community expectations about managing and responding to their behaviour.

The way we define a problem frames the way in which we as a society respond to the problem. How our justice system frames the management of offenders, including rehabilitation and reintegration into society, dictates whether we offer the opportunity for healing or punishment to vulnerable people.

Offender management systems are predominantly based on individual personality theories of crime, which do not consider the impact of trauma on young people and how this may impact criminogenic pathways.

The session will explore how the justice system measures rehabilitation by the recidivism of criminal behaviours and not the appearance of hope-based behaviours and healing. In this context, we explore why behavioural changes often seen in detention environments recede after release.

The evidence is clear that children and young people in youth justice settings have often experienced complex developmental trauma. As such, trauma informed approaches have significant validity in both custodial and community services. In particular, youth justice services can be critical in providing a unique opportunity for the implementation of trauma informed interventions that are grounded in principles of consistency and predictability.

This dedicated youth justice training will provide staff with an insight into how traumatised young people behave. Staff, at all levels, can then work more effectively with the young people, thereby helping them to gain an understanding of their behaviour, take responsibility for themselves and develop negotiated, positive relationships within a youth justice detention centre or across community programs.

Evidence shows that trauma-informed approaches that build young people’s strengths and attachments will assist the young person to understand and recover from the impact of their traumatic experiences, reducing the likelihood that they will continue to engage in high-risk and anti-social behaviour.

The session will provide real strategies for the provision of early intervention for our young people who have potentially increased capacity for transformation due to higher levels of neuroplasticity than adult offenders. Trauma responsive strategies may reduce the current 80% transition rate from youth detainment to adult imprisonment.

This session will demonstrate how trauma informed and culturally strong knowledge can redefine the functions of our youth justice system to that of facilitating healing and recovery form trauma. We will also consider the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian justice system from the context of trauma.

Bonus tool ‘Are we trauma responsive’ virtual walkthrough assessment tool for each participant!

What will you learn?

By attending this workshop you will:

  • Enhance and integrate your understanding of how experiences of trauma from abuse, violence or neglect impact the developing brain and body
  • Specifically, explore adolescent brain development and its relevance to young people accessing youth justice services
  • Link an understanding of generational experiences of trauma across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can help us provide culturally strong interventions
  • Discuss specific ways to take reparative action
  • Explore how the polyvagal system can be accessed in practical ways to increase the regulation of both young people and staff in the youth justice system
  • Map your practice across trauma responsive principles to consider and address some of the challenges to implementing trauma responsive approaches within custodial and community services in youth justice


What difference will this make to your practice?

Research indicates that the majority of young people in youth justice systems have experienced complex developmental trauma. This training will provide you with the tools to deal with the effects that trauma has on children and young people and to promote a system of looking beyond behaviour and use strategies that create new opportunities for young people in their life and relationships.

By learning and understanding the key concepts trauma-informed practice and the underpinning neurobiology the training provides realistic interventions based on principles of healing and restorative justice and self-care for staff.

You will learn how to understand the context of youth development and offending by examining both individual trauma, including its emotional, cognitive, and behavioural effect, and an understanding of the cycles of intergenerational trauma and family violence.