Open Statement to the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers: Ensure national action on the Report of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory
20 November 2017
We are horrified by the abuses and torture of children in detention in the Northern Territory, highlighted throughout the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (the Royal Commission).
We note the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, following her visit to Australia in March 2017 who found “the routine detention of young indigenous children the most distressing aspect of [her] visit.”
We are deeply concerned at the worsening rate at which Australia is locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is now 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up more than half the total number of children in prisons Australia-wide.
We note that this abuse is not isolated to the Northern Territory. Throughout the past 18 months there have been independent Inquiries into youth detention in every jurisdiction except South Australia.
In addition to removing children from their families and communities, children are being subjected to prolonged abuse including isolation, restraint chairs, spit hoods and tear gas in youth prisons.
This is unacceptable.
All Australian governments must take immediate measures to reform our youth justice systems and address the recommendations of the Royal Commission. These must be developed collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to ensure that all of Australia’s children thrive.
The undersigned organisations call on the Australian Government, working with the Northern Territory Government and other State and Territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to seize the landmark opportunity presented by the Royal Commission to:
- Work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representative bodies to deliver a comprehensive and ongoing response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission
- Lead national reform through COAG of youth justice systems, laws, policies and practices. This must build on the recommendations of the Royal Commission, with a view to developing national minimum benchmarks for laws and policies
- Prioritise this issue as a standing item at future COAG meetings to ensure an ongoing comprehensive Commonwealth, State and Territory response to this pressing national issue
- Ensure there is independent oversight and monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
For media comment from Change the Record Co-Chairs Antoinette Braybrook or Cheryl Axleby, contact Rashmi Kumar, Principal Advisor, at 0409 711 061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Signed by the following organisations:
Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Victoria
Amnesty International Australia
Australian Association of Social Workers
Australian Capital Territory Law Society
Australian Child Rights Taskforce
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Australian Health Promotion Association
Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation
Australian Indigenous Doctors Association
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
Australian Physiotherapy Association
Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
Bar Association of Queensland
Canberra Police Community Youth Club
Child Rights Australia
Children and Young People with Disability Australia
Community Legal Centres NSW
Community Legal Centres Queensland
Community Legal Centres Association WA
Democracy in Colour
Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre
Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria)
First Peoples Disability Network
Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre
Fossil Free Unis
Human Rights Law Centre
Indigenous Allied Health Australia
Indigenous Eye Health
International Social Service Australia
Jesuit Social Services
Just Reinvest NSW
Justice Reinvestment SA
Koorie Youth Council
Law Council of Australia
Law Society of NSW
Law Society of South Australia
Making Justice Work
Melbourne City Mission
Muticultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN)
National Association of Community Legal Centres
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services
National Children's and Youth Law Centre
National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
National Council of Single Mothers and their Children
National FVPLS Forum
NSW Reconciliation Council
People with Disability Australia
Plan International Australia
Protect All Children Today Inc.
Public Health Association of Australia
Save the Children Australia
Smart Justice for Young People
SNAICC - National Voice for Our Children
Social Determinants of Health Alliance
Social Reinvestment Coalition WA
Southern Aboriginal Corporation
St Vincent de Paul Society of Australia
The Bridge of Hope Foundation Inc.
The Kimberley Foundation
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Weave Youth & Community Services
Woden Community Service
Youth Advocacy Centre Inc.
Youth Affairs Council of Victoria
Youth Coalition of the ACT