Amnesty International condemns the Queensland Government’s rushed amendments to legislation that would override the state’s Human Rights Act to allow adult watchhouses to be used as youth detention centres for the next three years.
By rushing through these amendments yesterday, the Government is putting vulnerable children in harm’s way.
Amnesty International Indigenous Rights campaigner Kacey Teerman says:
“It is abhorrent that the Labor Government in Queensland is suspending its Human Rights Act for the second time in a year to lock up children from as young as 10.”
“These changes in law undeniably violate children’s rights and exacerbate the human rights emergency in Queensland’s already broken youth justice system that disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander children.”
“Adult watchhouses are not places children are ever meant to be kept in for even one night, let alone weeks or months or years. The Queensland Police Service’s own operation manual says children should not be held in a watch house overnight. Queensland magistrates have made it clear in the past that children in watch houses are exposed to adult detainees who are often drunk, abusive, psychotic or suicidal”.
“There is overwhelming evidence that youth detention does not work to deter crime, to rehabilitate kids or to improve community safety. All evidence shows locking up children increases the likelihood of kids re-offending. This new measure will lead to an explosion in the number of children in adult watch houses.”
“We urge the Queensland Government to invest in people and not in prisons by finding long-term solutions that address the key drivers of such behaviour in consultation with their families and communities. There are many examples of successful community-led solutions across the country. They need proper, long-term funding and a commitment from the government to move away from Band-Aid responses that harm kids and don’t achieve the outcomes they promise.”
Amnesty International’s investigation in 2019 uncovered 2,655 breaches of domestic and international law, including keeping children in watch houses for illegal durations; failing to provide children with adequate clean clothes, underwear and personal hygiene products; the institutional use of violence; the use of isolation as a form of punishment; failure to provide adequate health and mental health care; and failure to provide access to adequate education.
Amnesty International has repeatedly written to the Queensland government, expressing our concerns about the failure of the state’s youth justice system that has seen children being held in appalling conditions in adult watch houses for weeks without fresh air, sunlight and the ability to gain an education.