On Tuesday, 31 May, 7pm AEST, Amnesty’s Redfern Action Group will be holding a free online forum about Australia’s (in)justice system and the Intervention to mark National Reconciliation Week. This year’s theme “Be Brave. Make Change.” is a challenge to all Australians— individuals, families, communities, organisations and government—to Be Brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can Make Change for the benefit of all Australians.
You are warmly invited to hear First Nations speakers address these urgent human rights issues at this free online Forum.
One of our speakers Yingiya Guyula addressed the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice on 10 May 2022. He stated, “This budget allocates an additional $8m to increase youth detention staffing; $64.3m for youth detention centres; and an extra $10.2m for remote policing. That is a total of $82.5m for government institutions compared with $3m for establishing Aboriginal law and order groups, community courts and alternatives to custody. Our communities are calling out for resources to enable elders and leaders to maintain peace and safety in the community for our people. He asked, “Why are millions of dollars going into systems that are failing and barely anything going towards our right and self-determination?”
“Our society should be protecting and promoting the safety of children, and all the evidence shows that Indigenous and community-led justice reinvestment programs are what’s effective for children in supporting them to lead healthy lives, free of the quicksand of the justice system” Palawa man Rodney Dillon of Amnesty’s Indigenous Rights team stated in support of children’s human rights.
With shameful consistency revelations keep occurring of human rights abuses happening in youth detention centres across Australia. Exposure of cruel mistreatment reached the wider community when ABC’s Four Corners covered Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
The Australian prison system is currently so broken that child abuse in detention centres is happening right under our government’s watch. There are children being tear gassed and locked in solitary confinement, and it’s not just at Don Dale.
“When the entire prison system seems designed to punish children rather than help them, it’s little wonder that kids often end up there again”, observed Nolan Hunter of Amnesty’s Indigenous rights team in 2017 and this truth is just as relevant today.
Some centres that have recently been in the spotlight are Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Tasmania. There are alarming rates of suicide attempts in Banksia in Western Australia. The use of spit hoods on children in detention is on the rise across the Northern Territory, despite the government agreeing to adopt recommendations from the 2017 Royal Commission that would prohibit their use.
Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights campaigner Maggie Munn said, “A spit hood is a tool of torture. Whether used in youth detention or in watchhouses is really a matter of semantics only – the profound damage and trauma the use of spit hoods can wreak can not be overstated.”
Larrakia man Eddie Cubillo who worked on the Royal Commission in 2017, told NITV News that it was “criminal” and “brutalisation” for the government to be forcing spit hoods on children. “The Chief Minister, Michael Gunner referred to the treatment of young people in detention as a ‘stain on the Northern Territory’s reputation’ that he would seek to address,” said Mr Cubillo. “[But] the government is reneging on the commitment by continuing to do these practices even though there is a recommendation not to do so anymore. “All research says that the brutalisation of kids is draconian and it’s basically like going back to the dark ages and will only make matters worse in regards to their rehabilitation and them getting back to community.”
First Nations children in the Northern Territory are 12.2 times more likely to be removed from their families by child protection services than non-Indigenous children. According to the Family Matters Report 2020 the NT has the lowest placement of Aboriginal children with kin or Aboriginal carers (36.9%) and has no dedicated commissioner or peak body for Aboriginal children and families.
With the proposed ending of the NT Intervention/Stronger Futures laws happening in the Territory, this forum will shine a light on the failure of these punitive policies to work with communities to enhance the well-being of children.
This forum will be an opportunity to hear from First Nations speakers of the NT, evaluate the impact of laws which affect them and their children and share their wisdom and understanding of the solutions which will respect their human right and nurture the next generation.