The National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds has expressed alarm at the Queensland Government rushing through legislation to allow children to be detained indefinitely in adult detention facilities, in a further contravention of the Queensland Human Rights Act.
Commissioner Hollonds said: “This latest action by the Queensland Government is not based on evidence and will not keep the community safer.
“Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child should only be detained as a last resort, and for the shortest appropriate period of time. They must also be segregated from all detained adults. Queensland’s Human Rights Act specifies that an accused child who is detained, or a child detained without charge, must be segregated from all detained adults.
“Police watch houses are not appropriate for children. The police officers are not trained to care for children, and there is no education or rehabilitation provided. There is no access to fresh air or exercise, and many cells have no window for natural light. Children as young as 10 years of age are being detained for many weeks in these shocking conditions.
Commissioner Hollonds said it’s very concerning that the laws are being rushed through without any consultation. “The recent toughening of bail laws has led to overflowing children’s prisons, resulting in the need to lock up more children in adult facilities, in breach of human rights laws.
“On any level - surely this is a sign of something seriously wrong. This is a system in crisis. And the community is not safer.”
These are children with trauma, disabilities and complex needs. They come from the child protection system and families living with poverty, disadvantage, and discrimination.
The Commissioner said there is no evidence to support the action being taken by the Queensland Government.
“Placing children in detention does not rehabilitate them or deter them from criminal behaviour. What it does is further entrench kids into a life of crime and rob them of their childhood and important developmental opportunities. This has life-long health, learning and wellbeing impacts for children, and significant long term social and economic costs for our society.
“We need evidence-based reforms to the service systems that should be helping children and their families, and ensuring that the health, development, learning and wellbeing of children are supported. This includes housing, financial support, and access to mental health services, drug and alcohol services, and domestic violence services. Schools need to co-ordinate with health and social services to be fit-for-purpose for complex needs in 2023.
"We need programs available everywhere that divert children away from crime, and engage them in education and training. We need well-equipped child protection services to provide extra help when families need it.
“This latest development in Queensland is further evidence that Australia’s youth justice systems are in full blown crisis, and that harsh punitive measures are not keeping the community safer. In fact, the states with the toughest youth crime laws are the ones having the biggest problems.”
The National Children’s Commissioner is currently consulting with young people, families and stakeholders across the country to investigate opportunities for reforming Australia’s youth justice and related systems. The project’s findings will be provided to the Commonwealth Attorney-General through a statutory Children’s Report to the Australian parliament.
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