Victoria must heed lessons from NTRC, national reform needed to overhaul broken youth justice systems

November 22, 2017 |

Smart Justice for Young People (SJ4YP) welcomes the recommendations made by the Northern Territory Royal Commission (NTRC) into child protection and youth detention and urges every Australian government to take immediate action to reform its youth justice systems.

In recent years, every state and territory has been implicated by revelations of abuse and harmful conditions in child prisons. SJ4YP Convenor Tiffany Overall said the NTRC’s final report, released Friday 17 November, provides direction for a better future.

“The horrors of Don Dale have not been confined to the Northern Territory. Victoria has harmed children in custody, contributing to this national crisis. Now we have a roadmap for addressing this injustice and doing better for our kids and communities,” Ms Overall said.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility was among the NTRC’s key recommendations.

“Victoria, along with other states and territories, are locking up children as young as 10 years old, despite repeated calls from the UN for Australia to stop criminalising small children. These kids need love, care and support, not to be taken away from their families and locked away in unsafe facilities,” said Ms Overall.

The NTRC emphasised that decision makers should make it a priority to keep kids out of prisons, and that building “a better mouse trap” could distract from the real goals of an effective youth justice system. Meanwhile, Victoria will pour $288.7 million into a new 224-bed jail for kids.

“We need to focus on building communities, not prisons. The tide is turning in the NT and other states, towards positive solutions that support children to live safely and thrive in their communities. Victoria could be leading the way. Instead, we’re falling behind,” said Ms Overall.

The NTRC’s report also highlighted the ongoing tragedy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being disproportionately targeted and harmed by the youth justice system. SJ4YP has joined Change the Record and almost 100 other organisations, calling on the Australian Government to work with state and territory governments through the COAG to completely overhaul its broken systems, by working in partnership with Aboriginal communities and their representative bodies.

“We are at crisis point. The Australian Government should be driving nationwide reform and working with communities to achieve necessary and overdue change,” said Ms Overall.

“Anything less would be an insult to the children and families who’ve bravely stood up to the governments that put them in harm’s way and routinely turned a blind eye to their pain,” said Ms Overall.

 

For comment and interviews, contact:

Abby McCarthy
Media and Communications Officer
Smart Justice for Young People
0458 131 517
mediacomms@youthlaw.asn.au

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