Amnesty International has welcomed the Queensland Government’s announcement of an independent review into Queensland youth detention centres, and called for the terms of reference to be defined in consultation with Indigenous communities and the youth justice sector.
Attorney General Yvette D’ath today announced the review will focus on the practices, operation and oversight of Queensland’s Youth Detention Centres, in response to allegations raised last night about excessive use of force and abuse of children, particularly Indigenous children, in detention.
Many of the allegations came to light through a Freedom of Information request by Amnesty International.
Safety of children
As a first priority, Amnesty International urged the Queensland Government to ensure the safety of all children currently in detention, including suspending any staff alleged to have been involved in abuses.
In setting the terms of reference for the review, the organisation called on the Queensland Government to learn from the process of establishing the Northern Territory Royal Commission.
“The terms of reference must be set in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the youth justice sector, and an Indigenous leader should be at the head of the inquiry,” said Roxanne Moore, Indigenous Rights Campaigner.
In Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 22 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous children. On an average day, 89 per cent of children in Cleveland youth detention centre are Indigenous.
Bipartisan support needed
“The abuse of children in detention is an issue that has lurked under a cloak of secrecy for many years, under successive Queensland Governments, and we welcome the Queensland Government’s swift response. Going forward, there must be a bipartisan effort to bring about a fairer and more rehabilitative youth justice system.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in detention at the upcoming COAG meeting.
Amnesty International urged the Federal Government and COAG leaders to follow the leadership of the Queensland Government in taking urgent action to protect children by immediately ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), and establishing a National Preventative Mechanism to independently monitor all places of detention in Australia.
Over 32,000 people have signed Amnesty International’s petition calling for Australia to ratify OPCAT.