History of YAC

The Youth Advocacy Centre has been advocacy for and supporting young people since 1981 and is one of the most respected voices in the youth justice space.

The story of YAC

First office 1981

In the late 1970s, Father Wally Dethlefs, a chaplain at the Sir Leslie Wilson Youth (Detention) Centre, was concerned to see children as young as 10 appearing in court without any legal assistance. It was apparent that most young people held there had serious issues in their lives which were contributing to their involvement in the youth justice system.

He was also concerned at the manner in which children were treated in the Centre where there were clear breaches of children’s human rights. With a number of committed lawyers and citizens, he developed a blueprint for a Youth Advocacy Centre. YAC would have a multidisciplinary team: lawyers to provide specialist legal information, advice and representation; and social support staff to address the reasons why children and young people were in contact with the law. This blueprint remains as relevant today as when it was first conceived.

YAC opened its doors in June 1981. This coincided with the establishment of Legal Aid Commissions around the country and the growth of the Community Legal Centre movement. Additionally, the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended around this time policies to divert young offenders from the court but, where this was not possible, courts should combine the need for due process with a special understanding of children’s problems, and services to alleviate these problems.

There were few such services for young people around the country, and very few lawyers with knowledge of the law affecting young people, disadvantaged and vulnerable people generally. At the time, only about 1/3 of children appearing in Brisbane and Ipswich courts were legally represented.

YAC would link young people to other community services, reflecting the belief that the local community should be assisted to take responsibility for its own young people and their families. Most importantly, services would be free and confidential: no contact would be made with families or other agencies without the consent of the young client.

Supporting young people, enabling them to make decisions about matters affecting them, and acting only on their instructions would be the YAC hallmarks. Early intervention and prevention were to be the keynotes. YAC’s multi-disciplinary approach of a combined service would be the first community legal and support service of its kind in Australia.

Lesliw Detention Centre
Invitation to Leslie demo

Contact YAC

Street address: Level 4, 16 Peel Street, South Brisbane Q 4101

Mailing address: Level 4, 16 Peel Street, South Brisbane Q 4101

Tel: (07) 3356 1002

Bussiness hours: 9am - 5pm, Mon - Fri

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