The State Government is being called on to address the “national crisis in youth justice” to prevent further harm to children in detention and reduce youth offending through effective systems of support.
The call, to all Australian Governments, was issued by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar; Australian National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds; National Human Rights Commissioner Larraine Finlay; and National Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chin Tan.
The move follows recent media reports of serious abuse, systemic failures, institutional racism, and neglect in youth justice facilities.
“It is clear the current approach of tougher sentencing and bail laws, punitive conditions, building more children’s prisons for increasing numbers, and incarcerating children as young as 10 years old, is not working to keep the community safe,” the Commissioners said in a joint statement.
“The human rights of children in detention continue to be violated routinely, and their lives placed at serious risk,” they said.
“We urge [Australian Governments] to heed the advice of senior judges, prison officials and child development experts calling for alternative approaches.”
Commissioner Hollonds said that all Governments needed to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years and implement evidence-based prevention, early intervention and diversion programs.
“Australia’s punitive approach is misguided and out-of-step internationally,” Commissioner Hollonds said.
“We need a national taskforce to address the underlying causes of youth crime, with national leadership and collaboration across jurisdictions,” she said.
“We have failed these children, and this has gone on for too long.
“We need to take urgent action now to address the systems failures and chronic crisis in youth justice.”