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Time for a new approach to juvenile justice

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 20 Dec 2012

Increasing over-representation of Indigenous youth in juvenile detention shows the drastic need for a new approach to justice in Australia, say Australian Greens Senators Penny Wright and Rachel Siewert.

New figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show Indigenous young people account for 53 per cent of all youth in detention and were 31 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be in detention, up from 27 times as likely in 2008.

"Locking up young people today will simply condemn many of them to jail in the future," Australian Greens spokesperson on Legal Affairs Senator Penny Wright said.

"Shocking figures like these are why the Greens have been lobbying hard for a new Justice Reinvestment approach to crime which emphasises the need to strengthen communities and invest resources to prevent crime in the first place.

"I am very pleased the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee will be looking into this matter and providing recommendations for reforming our justice system over the coming months."

Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the way to reduce this alarming overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention is to address the underlying causes.

"More effective and better resourced investment is needed in order to improve health services, community support, education and the provision of employment opportunities," said Senator Siewert.

"Australia is supposed to be committed to 'closing the gap' and while we know what the underlying causes of disadvantage and disengagement are, Aboriginal kids are still more likely to be incarcerated than they were in 2008. Programs such as income management cost a fortune and aren't working. This needs to change.

"For example, bilingual education, cultural learning, better training and assistance for teachers and improving hearing health are all things that help to keep kids engaged at school so they can develop the skills they will need in later life," Senator Siewert concluded.

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