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Issue #1791      August 23, 2017

Call for action on abuse of youth

The Change the Record Coalition has called for a national response to end the abuse of children in detention, following allegations of violence and mistreatment in ACT youth detention facilities. The most recent reports add to a growing list of revelations of abuse of children in detention around Australia, including Queensland’s Cleveland Youth Detention Centre, the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Detention Centre and Victoria’s Barwon Prison.

Change the Record co-chair Cheryl Axelby said the whistleblower reports from the ACT are extremely concerning, alleging over six years of violence inside the Bimberi Youth Detention Centre.

“These appalling accounts highlight an extremely concerning state of affairs for Australia’s youth justice systems,” she said. We urgently need federal leadership to shine a light on abuses in all jurisdictions, and immediate action to ensure the protection of all children in the justice system.”

Co-chair Antoinette Braybrook said the over-representation of Indigenous children in detention was a national crisis that demands a national response. We call on the Prime Minister to urgently commit to developing justice targets, and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to develop a national, holistic, whole-of-government action plan,” she said.

“Governments at all levels must begin to focus on investing in effective early intervention, prevention and diversion programs.

“We need to focus on supporting, rather than punishing, our young people to maximise their chances of achieving their full potential.”

Human rights lawyers have also expressed their alarm over the allegations.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) vice-president Kerry Weste called for a review into the procedures and practices at Bimberi. “If these allegations are accurate, there is clearly a very deep concern over long-standing systemic misconduct in the ACT’s youth justice sector,” she said.

“The allegations involve what would amount to incredibly disturbing human rights abuses against the most vulnerable people ... our children.

“The ACT government must do all it can to ensure that any such systemic abuses are completely weeded out.

“Immediate steps must be taken to ensure our youth justice system complies with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention Against Torture and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice.”

ALHR ACT convener Sangeeta Sharmin called on people with more information to come forward by contacting the ACT Human Rights Commission.

Koori Mail

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