26 September 2023

Kids’ Commissioner fails juvenile detention

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The National Children’s Commissioner is calling for urgent reform across a range of Government Departments and Agencies to address the country’s national youth detention crisis.

The Commissioner, Anne Hollonds said the issues currently being exposed at youth detention facilities in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory demonstrate that Governments were not prioritising the safety and wellbeing of children, especially those living with poverty and disadvantage.

“The ongoing crisis in youth justice is national systemic failure to protect children and young people,” Commissioner Hollonds said.

“Policies and service systems are failing to provide children and their families with the support they need, leading to more children coming into the child protection and youth justice systems,” she said.

“Vulnerable children and their families have been let down by Federal, State and Territory Governments for decades with key recommendations from various inquiries and Royal Commissions going unimplemented.”

She said that unlike many other developed nations, Australia had no national plan for child wellbeing and no Minister for Children.

“Nor do we have cross-portfolio leadership, like a taskforce, to address the system failures which are barriers to child safety and wellbeing,” Commissioner Hollonds said.

She said Australia’s health, education and social service systems were “fragmented and not fit for purpose for disadvantaged children and their families”.

She called for a co-ordinated national approach to address the underlying causes of harms to children, and a much greater sense of urgency.

“While international evidence shows that community-based early interventions are the best way to protect and support children, Governments across the country are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on approaches that clearly aren’t working, with more and more children entering the child protection and youth justice systems,” the Commissioner said.

“It’s not enough for us to care about our own children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We need to care about all children, and to create the conditions that keep children safe and well,” Commissioner Hollonds said.

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