CHILDREN in regional and rural areas are more likely to be held on remand than children in metro areas, a new report has shown.
The Sentencing Advisory Council's Children Held on Remand in Victoria report showed 38 per cent of remanded children lived in rural and regional areas.
That was compared to the 26 per cent of remanded children whose cases were finalised in metro suburban courts.
Patrick Rose, a youth lawyer at ARC Justice's Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre, said those figures could be linked to the limited availability of support services in regional communities.
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"There are concerns that some young people may be remanded because critical support services, such as housing or mental health, are not readily available when bail decisions are being made," Mr Rose said.
"Support services provided by the Children's Court in Melbourne and culturally appropriate diversion programs for young people are also not as readily accessible in regional areas."
The report noted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were over-represented, with 15 per cent of remanded children identifying as such.
Children whose cases were finalised in rural or regional courts were also nearly four times more likely to identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander than children whose cases were finalised in Greater Melbourne.
The report noted that was especially prominent in the Loddon Mallee region, which covers Bendigo.
"The over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people on remand is particularly concerning and reflects a broader over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the youth justice and child protection systems," Mr Rose said.
"More culturally appropriate supports and specialist services for Aboriginal young people and their families are needed, and must be developed in close consultation with local Aboriginal communities."
The Sentencing Advisory Council report recommended a number of changes to reduce the risk of certain children experiencing remand.
Those recommendations included a 24-hour bail system specifically for children and expanding the specialised Children's Court to rural and regional areas.
Mr Rose supported the recommendations and noted more investment in therapeutic programs and community supports was also needed.
"In regional areas, where courts may only sit once a week, young people can experience delays in their matters being heard, which can cause significant additional stress and anxiety," he said. "During COVID-19, long adjournment periods have exacerbated these delays.
"Having the Children's Court and Koori Children's Court sit more regularly in regional areas would help to reduce the stress and anxiety experienced by young people in their interactions with the justice system and contribute to better justice outcomes."