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Greens join Law Council in calls for Don Dale to be shut down and launch youth justice policy

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 24 Apr 2019

The Australian Greens have today reaffirmed their commitment to work with First Nations peoples to take urgent action on youth justice issues in Australia.

“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 the facility,” Australian Greens spokesperson on First Nations issues Senator Rachel Siewert said.

“The Greens are calling for the Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres in the Northern Territory to be decommissioned immediately. We support investing in a new model of youth justice based on a therapeutic model, in line with recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children in the Northern Territory.

“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 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.

“The Greens strongly support First Nations community-controlled organisations developing and operating youth diversion programs in remote, regional and metropolitan communities. We will ensure diversion programs are supported with holistic service delivery by adequately investing in mental health, drug and alcohol services, and housing for young people.

The Greens have committed $10 million over four years to establish an independent Human Rights Law Centre and a National Centre for Justice Reinvestment and $50 million over four years for a Justice Reinvestment Grants Program.

“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."

The Greens will:

1. Make the detention of young people a last resort
2. End the use of restraints, force and isolation
3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility
4. Invest in diversion programs
5. Make bail meaningful
6. Employ highly qualified, specialised staff
7. Promote justice reinvestment

The full plan can be found here

Media Contact

Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180

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