Indigenous children make up one in 15 kids in Australia – but are half of all children in Australia’s youth detention centres. By locking away children and separating them from their families and communities, our governments are placing limits on children’s potential and causing them life-long, psychological harm.The issue In depth
The Indigenous rights issue In Depth
Everything you need to know
“We launched our Community is Everything campaign in 2015 because we don’t want to see Indigenous kids locked up anymore,” explains Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Advisor Rodney Dillon.
“We want to see them living in happy, healthy communities, finishing school, getting good jobs and becoming community leaders.”
We know that putting kids in jail only makes matters worse. It should be a last resort but research by the Victorian government shows that Indigenous kids are much more likely to be charged by police, than cautioned and referred to a support program.
Magistrates in regional and rural areas have told us that too often, local Indigenous programs are not sufficiently funded to be part of the solution, which makes detention a far more likely option. Find out more in our Brighter Futures report.
To close the justice gap, the Australian Government must work with the states and territories and Indigenous organisations to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in detention. This is our main campaign aim.
Our research highlights the compelling evidence that intervening early in the lives of disadvantaged kids to address the causes of offending helps improve their wellbeing and sets kids up to thrive. With your support we can make a difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in Australia.
In the words of Noongar Elder Eugene Eades, who we’ve worked closely with on the campaign: “The sky’s the limit if we work together”.
Read our reports to find out more:
- National: A brighter tomorrow
- Western Australia: There’s always a brighter future
- Queensland: Heads held high
Change the Record Coalition
Amnesty’s Indigenous rights work complements the huge amount of human rights advocacy that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and organisations are doing across Australia.Read More
We aim to safeguard the rights set out by the United Nations in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognises the rights of Indigenous people and communities to control decisions affecting their own lives and futures.
That is the foundation of our Community is Everything campaign – with research and plans developed under the guidance of Indigenous community members.
We are working with Indigenous peak organisations and other NGOs, as part of the Change the Record coalition, to close the justice gap.
The two main goals of Change the Record are to:
- Close the gap in rates of imprisonment by 2040; and
- Cut the disproportionate rates of violence to at least close the gap by 2040 with priority strategies for women and children.
Change the Record is chaired by Indigenous experts in the justice space and draws on the combined expertise of Indigenous peak, community sector and human rights organisations. You can read our key principles for change here.
Other Indigenous justice issues that we work on include:
- Action to stop Indigenous deaths in custody
- The right to live on Aboriginal homelands
- The right to be free from racial discrimination
Each Australian state and territory is responsible for its own law and justice policies, but it is our national government that is ultimately responsible for ensuring Australia protects the rights of Indigenous children. Together, we can hold them to account.Read More
Amnesty is highlighting state and territory laws and policies that violate the rights of children, like mandatory sentencing in Western Australia. We have already successfully fought for changes to the law in Queensland which restores the detention of children to a last resort and ensure children are not held in adult prisons.
However, our national government is ultimately responsible for ensuring Australia meets our obligations in protecting the rights of Indigenous children. Currently our national government is not holding state and territory governments to account for failing Indigenous children.
This is despite consistent recommendations, including from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the federal government take responsibility in addressing the justice gap.
The Federal Government can make a difference by setting targets to close the justice gap and finally taking responsibility for change. Justice targets are the first step in developing a long-term national plan to close the justice gap.
At the next Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, our states and territories also need to agree on a national strategy to address Indigenous over-representation in the justice system, in consultation with Indigenous leaders.Close
What we’re asking
We’re calling for our government to support more Indigenous-led solutions for kids and change laws for a fairer youth justice system. Over the next five years we’ll be working hard to make this an issue politicians can’t ignore.
To close the justice gap, Amnesty International is calling for:
More Indigenous-led solutions for kids
- Governments should adequately fund the hard-working Indigenous people and organisations already working to support children and families and prevent contact with the justice system.
- Judges should have adequate alternatives to detention available to them to work with and rehabilitate kids instead of locking them up.
A fairer youth justice system
Governments must address the faulty parts of our justice system by:
- setting targets to close the justice gap;
- implementing a national system to better collect and address problems with data to ensure that Indigenous kids get the support they need;
- changing laws (for example mandatory sentencing and restrictive bail laws) that have negative consequences for Indigenous kids and prevent judges from properly doing their job;
- ending inhumane treatment of kids in detention;
- making sure our laws comply with the standards Australia has agreed to be held to, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture.