The Young Women’s Voices project (‘YWV’) emerged from the Youth Voices pilot project undertaken by Anglicare Southern Queensland and Anglicare NSW South, NSW West & ACT. Youth Voices was an innovative research project designed in response to the complex issues facing young people – particularly those in trouble with the law. Recognising that the perspectives of young people are frequently neglected, the project used an alternative approach to identify ways in which young people seek help, and who and what makes good help from their perspective.

An important finding from Youth Voices was the need to hear specifically about young women’s experiences of the community services and youth justice systems (the ‘youth justice ecosystem’). These systems were designed to address the needs of males, but we know that young women’s pathways into these systems are different from young men’s, and that young women have unique needs. Young Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women are over-represented in the youth justice ecosystem, and the YWV project is committed to documenting their unique perspectives and utilising this knowledge to drive change.

YWV aims to document young women’s experiences of the youth justice ecosystem across Australia. The project will use an innovative ‘sensemaker’ methodology, involving young women – especially Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young women, those with experience of community services, out-of-home care, and so on – in co-designing the study and interpreting the results. This will ensure the impact of the research, and that its messages are delivered to the right people to create positive change for young women.

Ultimately, YWV aims to reduce young women’s contact with the youth justice ecosystem, inform better service provision, and support young women of all backgrounds to live healthy and flourishing lives.