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2009 Media Release: Getting Indigenous youth out of the criminal justice system

Commission Commission – General

Logos of the Australian Institute of Criminology, NSW Justice & Attorney General, Australian Human Rights Commission and the NSW Commission for Children and Young People

30 August 2009

Getting Indigenous youth out of the criminal justice system

With Indigenous young people now 28 times more likely to be detained in custody than their non-Indigenous counterparts, a national conference focusing on the issue will be opened in Sydney tomorrow by Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

The Indigenous young people, crime and justice conference will be hosted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) in partnership with the NSW Commission for Children and Young People, the NSW Department of Justice and Attorney General and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Mr McClelland said the AIC’s latest report on juveniles in detention had identified the overrepresentation of Indigenous young people in the criminal justice system as one of Australia’s most significant social problems.

“Collaborative responses are needed to address this issue and this conference will bring together key organisations from justice, education, child protection, family support and health to discuss the latest research, good practice and policies,” the Attorney said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said future efforts must focus on prevention and diversion.

“Juvenile detention should be the last resort for Indigenous young people when we know that locking kids up often escalates to a life of adult crime. We should be putting our money into prevention, early intervention and diversion instead of continuing to lock kids up and this is why I am committed to advocating for and promoting a justice reinvestment model.”

NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian Calvert said government and community efforts need to focus on preventing Indigenous young people from being in juvenile detention in the first place.

“Finding ways of building up their identity, skills and confidence, rather than pulling them down, is the key to reducing the rate of Indigenous kids who find their way into the juvenile criminal system.”

The two-day conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza, Parramatta from 9.00am tomorrow, Monday 31 August. The conference program is available at

AIC media contact: Scott Kelleher.
Telephone: 02 6260 9244; Mobile: 0418 159 525.