Australian juvenile arson intervention programs

As part of its Bushfire Arson Project, the AIC recently conducted a national survey of arson prevention and intervention programs in operation throughout Australia. Survey responses were received for nine intervention programs operating in eight jurisdictions (see Table 1). Information on four more general fire education programs was also received, but they are not discussed here.

Intervention programs and responsible agency
Program Jurisdiction Agency
Juvenile Fire Awareness and Intervention Program (JFAIP) ACT ACT Fire Brigade
Intervention and Fire Awareness Program (IFAP) NSW NSW Fire Brigade
Juvenile Fire Awareness and Intervention Program (JFAIP) NT NT Fire and Rescue Service
Fight Fire Fascination (FFF) Queensland Queensland Fire and Rescue Service
Juvenile Arson Offenders Program (JAOP) Queensland Queensland Fire and Rescue Service
Juvenile Fire Lighters Intervention Program (JFLIP) SA SA Metropolitan Fire Service
Juvenile Fire Lighters Intervention Program (JFLIP) Tasmania Tasmania Fire Service
Juvenile Fire Awareness and Intervention Program (JFAIP) Victoria Victorian Metropolitan Fire Brigade
Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness (JAFFA) WA Fire and Emergency Service Authority of WA
Source: AIC survey of fire agency arson programs, 2006

The programs target individual juveniles with firesetting tendencies, or in some cases more severe arson charges. They are all fire education based, but many also incorporate elements of social and fire skill building, behaviour modification in relation to fire, and self-esteem development.

The programs utilise specially trained fire fighters as program facilitators, and either encourage or require the participation of the young person's parents. The programs also maintain links with the mental health services and the criminal justice system. Many of the programs accept referrals from youth/children's courts or from family group conferences. The Queensland Juvenile Arson Offenders Program is the only Australian program specifically designed for young people convicted of arson offences, and only takes referrals from the criminal justice system.

There is a considerable amount of cross-pollination and cooperation between Australian arson prevention programs. The programs in SA, NT and the ACT, for example, were all based on the Victorian JFAIP program, which was first developed in 1988. The Victorian program and the Western Australian JAFFA program were also influenced by overseas programs, such as those from the United States and the United Kingdom. These common foundations allow the programs to learn from the successes and mistakes of each other, in addition to sharing the costs of developing the program curriculum and training materials.

Arson intervention programs such as these are an important strategy for preventing arson, including bushfire arson, among young people who have shown an unhealthy interest in fire. Such programs may be used in conjunction with traditional criminal justice responses such as fines, community-based orders, or custodial orders, in order to specifically target the firesetting behaviour. The programs are also appropriate for young people who have engaged in fire play or who have lit fires, but have not committed a criminal offence, and thus have not come to the attention of the criminal justice system.