The Australian Greens are today calling for State and Federal Governments Australia wide to urgently work to overhaul approaches to youth justice, including legislating to raise the criminal age of responsibility to 14 years old.
“When then Prime Minster Turnbull announced the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children in the Northern Territory the Greens called for the Commission to be extended to the whole of Australia, particularly Queensland, because horrific things were being reported in detention facilities across the country,” Australian Greens spokesperson on First Nations issues Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“Now, three years later, yet another Four Corners investigation has uncovered human rights abuses against children in the care of the state.
“It’s appalling that we have to wait for the situation to get this bad for even the suggestion of action.
“What has been done to young people in Don Dale and other youth detention facilities is shameful and both state and federal Governments have failed to act, despite the devastating evidence we heard at the Royal Commission and the continued problems at that facility and now in Queensland.
“First Nations young people are 25 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous young people and 17 times more likely to be under youth justice supervision.
“The majority of young people in detention around Australia, and particularly in the Northern Territory, are on remand, which means their matters are still in court and they have not been found guilty of any criminal activity. These young people should not be held in detention. Detention should only be used as a very last resort for any person up to 17 years.
“Across Australia, the age of criminal responsibility is currently set at 10 years, meaning that children are being charged, brought before courts, sentenced and imprisoned. Apart from being inconsistent with international human rights law, criminalising young and vulnerable children creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage and entrenches children in the criminal justice system.
"The Greens will work to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years across Australia, as a minimum.
"It is critical that the underlying causes of youth interaction with the justice system are addressed. The Commonwealth has a key role to play here, they need to show leadership and be prepared to use the levers they have to drive reform, this includes their significant investment in services and support programs.
“The Greens strongly support First Nations community-controlled organisations developing and operating youth diversion programs in remote, regional and metropolitan communities. We need diversion programs that are supported with holistic service delivery by adequately investing in mental health, drug and alcohol services, and housing for young people.
“Staff working in youth justice must have expertise in youth development, trauma, de-escalation, therapeutic and rehabilitative approaches.
"If we are going to have any chance at closing the gap we need a human rights based approach to youth justice and First Nations peoples control over the development, design and implementation of youth justice policies for First Nations young people
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180