Amnesty tells UN: PM Turnbull, not just states and territories, responsible for Indigenous kids’ rights

Amnesty International will tell the UN Human Rights Council this week that Prime Minister Turnbull must stop passing the buck to state and territory governments: he must overhaul the youth ‘injustice’ system so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children grow up in their communities, not behind bars. The message comes just weeks before the Human Rights Council votes on whether Australia will gain a temporary seat on the council.

Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Manager, will address the Council meeting on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting, Tammy Solonec said:

“The eyes of the UN are on Australia ahead of next month’s vote on the Human Rights Council seat. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples said, on her visit earlier this year, that Australia needed to substantially address Indigenous issues to be a member of the Council.

PM Turnbull buck passing

“Prime Minister Turnbull’s government consistently tries to pass the buck on youth justice, but the Special Rapporteur has been very clear: the Turnbull Government, not the states and territories, is responsible under international law for the soaring rates that Indigenous young people are locked up in children’s prisons, and for the abuses they endure there.”

“This is not only an issue for the Northern Territory Royal Commission: we’ve seen abuses across the country. There have been recent inquiries into youth justice systems in almost every state and territory. It’s time for the Turnbull government to take the lead and commit to a national action plan that will overhaul the youth ‘injustice’ system across Australia.”

“Here is an opportunity for PM Turnbull to show real human rights leadership. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children deserve nothing less,” said Tammy Solonec.

Energetic discussion

Ahead of the session, Amnesty will host a side event with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (NATSILS) on 19 September. At the event, John Paton Quinn, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office, will participate in an energetic discussion with the Special Rapporteur, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on the crisis of Indigenous children in the justice system.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz has just released her report on Australia, criticising “the routine detention of young Indigenous children”, as young as 10 years old, at 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

In the report she says, “The current claim by the Government that matters relating to incarceration remain the sole prerogative of states is untenable in the severe and worsens the impact of the national detention crisis on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Special Rapporteur underlines that it is the responsibility of the federal Government to ensure compliance with international human rights obligations.”