Three Indigenous children playing in water

Children’s Commissioner urges Australia to protect kids in detention

We welcome the Children’s Commissioner’s report tabled today, urging the Australian Government to protect children in detention by ratifying the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

In response to the report, Roxanne Moore, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia, said:

“Let’s see Australia’s leaders ratify OPCAT, and then commit to a national plan for protecting children in detention at next week’s COAG meeting, when youth detention and child protection will be on the agenda for the first time ever.”

“Ratifying OPCAT will allow independent inspectors to shine a light into the dark places of detention and protect children from abuse.”

“This adds to calls from the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Change the Record Coalition and many others. We’ve seen horrific torture at Don Dale, mistreatment in Cleveland Youth Detention Centre, and unrest in detention centres right around Australia”

“Prime Minister Turnbull needs to take action and ratify OPCAT now so human rights abuses of kids in detention never happen again.”

“When our leaders meet next week for COAG they must address the Children’s Commissioner’s call for a national strategy to end the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and adults in detention, under the Close the Gap Framework.”

“That is the only way we will see progress – and we can’t afford to fail another generation of Indigenous kids.”

“After reading this report, it’s clear how the Don Dale abuses happened, and how abuses are happening to kids all over the country. The report says loud and clear that current systems of oversight of places of detention are not in line with international standards – and they aren’t working effectively to capture all human rights abuses. Bodies that currently have some level of oversight – like Ombudsmen, Commissions and Official Visitors – are not independent enough and do not have a mandate to get full access into youth detention centres. Where there are a lot of agencies involved, there is a lack of coordination. Further, these agencies where they exist are not resourced well enough. The result is huge gaps in oversight, which leads to situations of abuse of children, as we saw in Don Dale and Cleveland.”

“The Commissioner finds that monitoring bodies need to extend to places like police cells and lock-ups, court holding cells, and vehicles used to transport people in the youth justice system. This is a particularly important finding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in the wake of Ms Dhu’s death in a police cell last year and the many other preventable Aboriginal deaths that have occurred in police custody.”