Children as victims of crime | Alannah & Madeline Foundation Skip to main content

We want all children and young people to grow up healthy, to thrive and make positive contributions to their community. But some children experience serious harm as a result of being exposed to crime, its aftermath, and through their interactions with the criminal justice system. The effects on children's development and wellbeing can be severe.

The criminal justice system, set up to deal with adult offenders, has struggled to respond to the needs of children. Traditionally, legislation has not fully recognised children who witnessed or were otherwise exposed to crime as victims in their own right – which means children often miss out on important support services to help them recover and heal from trauma.

Most victim support services are not structured or funded to work closely with children. Many court precincts remain unsuitable places for children – confusing, intimidating, and even unsafe. And many children affected by crime lack a real voice in the justice proceedings.

When the justice system does not respond well to children's needs, this can hinder their recovery and even re-traumatise them.

We are calling for:

  • Legislation that recognises children of all ages who have been exposed to crime as victims in their own right. (We recognise some recent positive developments here - for example, Victoria's 2022 Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act.)
  • Partnerships between courts and specialist agencies to support children and young people to navigate the court system, cope with their experiences in court, and have a meaningful voice in decision-making that affects them.
  • Continued improvement of court precincts to ensure children, young people and their families are safe and welcome there and can access the right professional supports.
  • A system that can move early to identify children who have been exposed to crime and support their recovery across the fields of justice, child protection and education.
  • Comprehensive data collection and research into the needs of children and young people exposed to crime.

We have a particular focus on Victorian legislation, policy, services and partnerships. In the last year, we added our voice to many consultation processes, including:

  • Inquiry into victim participation in Victoria's criminal justice system (Victims of Crime Commissioner)
  • Review of victims' experiences of summary proceedings in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts (Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety)
  • Review of Victoria’s responses to stalking, harassment and similar conduct (Victorian Law Reform Commission)
  • National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
  • National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children
  • Strategic planning for the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.

We also advocate for children's rights as victims of crime through our participation in peak bodies such as the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and Youth Affairs Council Victoria.